UCU elections
Taking action in higher education

'Factory sirens' to go off at University of Bristol protest as staff begin industrial action

10 October 2011 | last updated: 11 December 2015

Members of UCU at the University of Bristol will today set off a 5pm 'factory siren' as their campaign of industrial action against imposed changes to their pensions begins.

From this morning UCU members are 'working to contract'. This means they simply work to the terms of their contract (including their obligation to perform their duties in an efficient manner).
The 'factory siren' is part of a demonstration where UCU members will set off alarm clocks and ring bells at 5pm on the steps of Senate House. The demonstration will begin at 4.45pm.
The working to contract action is taking place in 67 universities across the UK, including all the Russell Group institutions. If that does not force negotiations then the union warned that the action would escalate to include rolling strikes and a boycott of student assessment. Over 1 million students would be hit if the action escalates.
The union has been frustrated by the employers' negotiators' steadfast refusal to negotiate and said it does not believe that hawkish stance is shared by all universities. UCU said it would review the work to contract action at universities that publicly call upon the employers to negotiate and do not subject members to punitive and unfair salary deductions.
The dispute is about changes to the Universities Superannuation Scheme (USS) pension scheme - the second largest private scheme in the UK. Scheme members are furious that changes they vehemently opposed were imposed on 1 October. Those changes will see them pay more to work longer with less protection should they lose their job.
In two referendums over 90% of scheme members who voted, voted against the changes and in the industrial action ballot over three-quarters (77%) of UCU members backed the sustained industrial action campaign. Full details on the dispute, what work to contract means, how the action may develop and a list of the universities hit by the action can be found here: USS pension dispute briefing
Professor James Annett, University of Bristol UCU spokesperson, said: 'Any form of industrial action is always a last resort and we are keen to get this dispute resolved as quickly as possible and without major disruption at the university or to our students. However, we cannot accept the changes that are being imposed on our pensions.'
UCU general secretary, Sally Hunt, said: 'We are keen to resolve this dispute as quickly as possible with minimal disruption. However, you cannot negotiate with an empty chair. We hope those universities keen to avoid unnecessary confrontation and disruption will start to apply pressure on those refusing to talk.'