Students in Bournemouth and across the country will see their assessments left unmarked as part of industrial action by lecturers – unless progress is made in talks.
The University and College Union (UCU) marking boycott is set to begin on 28 April. The action aims to put pressure on university managers to improve on a below-inflation pay offer of 1 per cent. The boycott was announced on 17 February, and an agreement has yet to be reached between UCU and the employers’ University and College Employers’ Association (UCEA).
‘A settlement could have been reached long before now’ – John Brissenden, UCU
Bournemouth UCU branch chair John Brissenden said: “This is a national dispute, but the employers’ negotiating body, UCEA, is accountable to the vice-chancellors of each member university. Only university management can therefore end this dispute.
“We call on them to press UCEA to return to negotiations and reach a settlement as a matter of urgency. The pay claim at the root of this dispute was first tabled over a year ago. A settlement could – and should – have been reached long before now.”
Bournemouth University press officer James Donald said: “Bournemouth University is doing all it can to minimise the impact of any UCU action on students. We have emphasised the need to academic staff to ensure that any potential effects on students are minimised.”
A poll by the Students’ Union of Bournemouth University (SUBU) on whether it should support the UCU dispute in the university saw just 85 of 16,683 students voting.
Strike influence on employers
Mr Brissenden said, “Students might want to ask the vice-chancellor why it is that the employers always wait until industrial action has hit students before they negotiate over staff pay.”
“Clearly the strikes and working to contract that have taken place over the last five months have not influenced the employers,” he added.
But the union threat seems to have had some effect. The UCEA agreed to bring forward its negotiation meeting to 15 April with the possibility of an additional meeting on 24 April if required.
‘Bournemouth University is doing all it can to minimise the impact’ – James Donald, Bournemouth University
The marking boycott could mean delayed graduation for final year students, some of whom include international students on visas.
Mr Brissenden said, “The last time the employers agreed a real terms pay increase for university staff was in 2006, following a marking boycott by UCU members.”
The UCU head of bargaining Michael MacNeil said: “Since we last sat down with the employers to formally discuss pay there have been six strikes by university staff – three full day ones and three two hour stoppages – and we have announced plans for a marking boycott.
“We welcome the fact that UCEA have agreed to bring forward the next meeting to 15 April, as this gives them one more chance to make a fair offer before the marking boycott begins.”