Four Fights Update: Marking and Assessment Boycott and further Strike Action

We have recently received information from our central UCU colleagues about the next stages of our industrial action. On Friday 6th May, 2022 UCU sent to our employers the legally required 14 day notification for industrial action. The nature of this industrial action this time will be a Marking AND Assessment boycott as well as 10 further days of strike action. The Marking and Assessment Boycott will begin on Monday 23rd May, 2022.

Our Branch Committee has taken the opportunity between our successful second strike ballot and this formal announcement of our next round of industrial action to seek information, support and solidarity from other branches and UCU itself.

The feelings and opinions from grassroots members were fed back yesterday to the national union at a Branch Delegate Briefing attended by two members of our Branch Committee who voted on the nature and extent of our continuing campaign.

The overwhelming preference, of all those branches with a mandate to undertake industrial action, was to defer deploying the threat of strike action to the start of the 2022/2023 academic year so that events such as Clearing and Induction might be targeted. It is also possible that we will be able to have some autonomy over exactly when we can call strike action in the future.

In terms of the Marking and Assessment Boycott the Branch Committee members continue to work with colleagues from across the whole union to ensure that this action will have maximum impact whilst mitigating any possible impacts on individuals, such as pay deductions and feeling isolated or unsupported. Our intention is to set up regular meetings as support and guidance sessions to make sure that no-one feels alone in this action. We will provide further information very soon as all members will have questions about the mechanics and potential consequences of this kind of action.

Role of Departmental Reps

In order to help us maximise the impact of the Marking and Assessment Boycott we need members in each department to nominate one or two people to act as a Departmental Contact for the boycott to begin conversations with their colleagues about their contribution to the Boycott and then feed questions back to the branch committee so that the branch’s deliberations are member-led. Don’t worry about not having all the answers. This is a learning process for all of us and mutual and collective support is going to be the key to our success. In particular, we expect that more senior and experienced colleagues will play a major role in supporting newer colleagues and especially those employed on precarious contracts in each department.

This action can hit hard if we act collectively

With other branches we are discussing branch “twinning”, salary sharing, fundraising from other unions, other fundraising events and activities as well as lobbying UCU to raise the cap on pay outs by the union’s Hardship Fund to mitigate any personal losses to members.

Your involvement in these strategies is crucial.

It may not however actually, take much time and effort for us to bring the university’s assessment processes to a halt if our action is focussed and strategic. Last year a marking and assessment boycott, in conjunction with other forms of industrial action, forced the University of Liverpool’s management to withdraw their threat of 47 academic redundancies. A template for a winning strategy is already available to us then. Each worker’s active participation has the potential to have a real and major impact. The more of us that take part in the boycott and fundraising efforts, the deeper the effect and the more likely we are to push management to act in our favour.  Locally at KU that could include, but would not be limited to, immediate reductions in workloads, conversion of all HPLs to fractional permanent contracts, and more transparent and equitable progression and promotion criteria.

Next steps – Branch Meeting

We look forward to seeing you on Friday 13th May at 1pm for a Branch meeting (see inboxes for link) so your views can be expressed, heard and acted upon. We hope soon to have a toolkit for us all to use during this next stage of our united action. In particular, whilst hitting management hard we will seek to win the support of students and other staff.  Constant two-way communication within the branch as well as external publicity  will be important parts of our strategy.

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