Review of 2023

One of our big wins, together with Unison, was the harmonization of Annual Leave across all staff at the University. Previously, workers up to grade 7 started on 25 days of Annual Leave and earned one more day each year, up to a maximum of 30 days. This impacted our professional services colleagues and others. Most academic staff will have 35 days Annual Leave for full-time employment. From August 2024, all staff will have 35 days and for 2023-2024 additional days have been granted to those previously on less (pro rata).

In addition, we have ensured that any money taken from staff due to industrial action will go to the Student Hardship Fund once any processing of student fee reimbursements has been done.

Although we did not get the pay rise we fought for, it is notable that the percentage increase in our salaries was also applied to our London Weighting. This had not previously been the case.

We have been participating in working groups that are sub-groups of our normal joint negotiation meetings, which includes Unison. One working group is dedicated to our national goal of anti-casualisation, ensuring fair treatment and pay of HPLs and temporary workers. The other working group is related to this and impacts all of us, as it is dedicated to addressing the issues of our workloads. Both groups have met several times, agreed membership and guiding principles. We hope to see some outcomes from them this year.

Several policies have been updated and reviewed, to reflect the rest of the working sector (not just HE) and to hopefully provide you with a clearer picture of expectations at the University. These include agreement on Personal Relationships, Sickness Absence, and Capability (now Performance Management) policies. These should all now be available via the HR StaffSpace page. More will come this year. In particular, we have asked that all Appendices to policy documents be included in the same document, as these are often difficult to track down.

We have pushed to have broken lifts repaired and to have timetabling issues communicated more effectively. In the coming year we have also agreed to develop a working group to look at data related to job responsibility differences between the genders, i.e. whether more women are course leaders, etc. We also expect some clarity on what is happening with availability of parking, particularly at Penrhyn Road. We have raised the issues of academics in open plan offices and hope to see some resolution this year; if this affects you please let us know on Kingstonucu@gmail.com. We also hope to see more social and communal space for staff.

We ask you to make your voice heard in relation to London Weighting. London Weighting for other universities has been raised to address issues in the pay gap and cost of living, with some rising to £5,000 or more. Unfortunately, some local institutions are also still on the same London Weighting of 30 years ago, £2,134. We wish to jointly agree a motion with Unison to see our London Weighting rise to £5,000, in line with our other London colleagues. Please attend the next branch meeting on January 17 to vote on this motion.

 

Actions in support of Palestine

Tomorrow and Friday, the 9th and 10th of November, our members will be supporting the national student walk out called in support of the Palestinian people. We’ll gather outside the main entrance to our Penrhyn Road campus at 12 midday both days.

Next week, we are hosting an open online event, with speakers from BRICUP (British Committee for the Universities of Palestine) and Richmond & Kingston PSC (Palestine Solidarity Campaign). Following those public talks we will then go straight into our regular branch meeting, which will include discussion of the UCU National leadership elections 2024, and a KU UCU local campaign on London Weighting Allowance.

On our usual zoom room, link in our link tree and in the flyer above. See you there!

KU UCU Branch statement and motion on the situation in Palestine and Israel – October 2023

Kingston UCU affirms its unequivocal solidarity with the Palestinian people in their struggle for liberation. We also want to express our sadness and dismay at the recent violence in Palestine and Israel, and we deplore all loss of life. We understand that many in our community will be affected by these events and we extend our support to all of them, especially to those students and colleagues who may have lost loved ones or whose loved ones are under direct threat of attack.

This branch supports the rights of students and staff to express their solidarity with the people of Palestine at a time when the freedom to do so is in danger of being stifled by higher education institutions and by the British government. We also seek to reaffirm the national policy of the University and College Union to protect students and staff who may themselves come under attack for supporting the cause of the Palestinian people. We acknowledge and support the Open Letter of the Birzeit Union of Teachers and Employees, and we stand in solidarity with academics and teaching professionals in Palestine currently under threat of individual or collective harm.

We recognise that the British government’s military and political support for Israel’s discriminatory and colonial government serves to reinforce the bigoted conditions from which violence and injustice emerge. We support an end to the British government’s provision of arms in any form to Israel’s discriminatory and colonial government, and we want the withdrawal of Royal Naval ships deployed to support an Israeli offensive against Gaza and surrounding areas. We further support a ceasefire in the region, and the immediate implementation of humanitarian aid to the Palestinian people. We encourage our members to donate towards this aid, either through Medical Aid for Palestinians or Medecins sans Frontieres.

This branch notes:

1. UCU Congress 2021 passed a resolution condemning the Israeli state’s apartheid and colonial settler policies against the Palestinian people, including siege and bombardment of Gaza, seizure of Palestinian land, and policies and actions encouraging racist violence and ethnic cleansing.
2. UCU Congress has repeatedly affirmed support for the academic boycott of Israeli institutions.
3. A recent report by BRISMES (British Society for Middle Eastern Studies) documented dozens of cases where pro-Palestinian voices have been silenced or stifled as a result of unfounded accusations of antisemitism.
4. The British Home Secretary has told Chief Constables that “waving a Palestinian flag” and chanting “from the river to the sea, Palestine will be free” may be a criminal offence “in certain contexts”.

This branch believes:

1. That Israel’s apartheid system must be dismantled to enable democratic citizenship and equity for all.
2. That the Palestinian people have the internationally recognised right to resist occupation.

This branch resolves:

1. To support local and national protests in solidarity with the Palestinian people.
2. To support campaigns against attempts by the British government to restrict rights to free expression and protest in solidarity with the Palestinian people.
3. To implement UCU national policy in support of BDS (Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions), and to seek establishment of a joint University-UCU anti-apartheid committee to:
a) progress disinvestment talks with management
b) protect the freedom of staff and students to express solidarity with the
Palestinian people without fear of unfounded accusations of anti-Semitism and
support for terrorism.
4. To support the freedom of staff and students to comment on Palestine on social media and in academic work without fear of personal or professional sanctions.
5. To back our members in fundraising or campaigning efforts, on the University campus or in the surrounding area, in solidarity with the people of Palestine.
6. To invite speakers to our meetings who will brief us on the background to the current crisis and how we may continue to act in solidarity as a branch.

Update on MAB response, and Call for nominations to join Branch Committee AGM 7 June

Dear Kingston UCU Members,

Thank you for your support throughout the year and in our current marking and assessment boycott (MAB). We write to you with an update on this current action, what we’re doing locally, and how you can respond to requests for MAB participation. We also hope to see you all at our Annual General Meeting at 3:00pm on 07 June 2023.

Please see all details below, and join us on Slack to stay informed and support Kingston UCU.

Kingston UCU MAB Response

Branch Committee have been contacted by members across KU expressing serious concerns regarding their treatment by line managers and other senior members of staff. Last week we wrote to our Senior Leadership Team (SLT) and Human Resources (HR), outlining our concerns regarding their behaviour, restating the Union’s position in support of its members, and requiring that the University meet with us to discuss how best to resolve these issues.

As UCU members, you are not obligated to declare your future intentions regarding participation in the MAB. Members are free to enter (or leave) the MAB at any point after 20 April 2023, and should only state honestly what actions they have taken in the past, if asked directly by HR or a line manager. If you would be marking to a deadline for return of marks, for example, then this would be the date the Union considers that you would enter the MAB. Up until this point, an agreement could have potentially been reached in our ongoing negotiations, and the MAB ended, thus providing members the natural opportunity to complete and return all marking and assessments.

Requests for staff to declare any future intentions specifically regarding MAB participation are viewed as intrusive and intimidatory, and where it appears that our members are being singled out, this has the potential to constitute discrimination against a trade union member – an issue that we take extremely seriously.

We therefore advise you to respond to requests for declarations of intent ahead of any deadlines, or similar requests / assurances regarding meeting marking deadlines, with the following:

I/We are aware that the Kingston UCU branch committee has on Friday 12 May 2023, written to the SLT & HR requesting a meeting to address the issues raised in your request and other issues relating to industrial action. I/We support Kingston UCU in expressing concerns over the behaviour of management towards staff, which in many cases is causing stress and anxiety, and is counterproductive towards the long-term sustainability of a fair and collegiate working environment. 

I/ We therefore have decided that any further response to you will come as a result of the meeting between Kingston UCU and SLT. Kingston UCU branch committee represents its members through lawful, democratic decision making processes and actions. I/We ask that you respect their collective authority and refrain from requesting further declarations of intent at this time.

MAB Support

Kingston UCU are holding daily support meetings on Zoom, Monday to Friday 10am, to help members with specific concerns, and to share ideas and information. You can join using the link on our Linktree page, where you will also find more information about the MAB. Or use the Zoom link here:

Please also join Kingston UCU on Slack, to ask questions and stay up to date with branch activities and resources:

Support and information is also available from UCU central. We welcome the recent announcement of UCU’s central defence fund of £250,000, which you can read more about here. In addition, UCU central has further guidance, tools, and templates for the MAB here.

Kingston UCU Annual General Meeting & Call for Nominations

With the higher education sector still under threat of redundancies, unsafe workloads, casualistion, and devalued pay & pensions, our resolve to address these issues has never been stronger. Please join us to discuss these and other issues affecting our members. We will hold our Annual General Meeting (AGM) on 07 June 2023, 3pm on Zoom.

The agenda for the AGM is as follows:

  1. Branch committee nominations
  2. Update on current MAB, and future industrial action
  3. Finance report and local hardship fund
  4. Branch communications
  5. AOB

Our Kingston UCU branch committee members are committed to supporting you in fighting for equality. We know that members are being adversely affected both by events outside the University such as the ongoing cost of living crisis, as well as changes within the University such as the Townhouse strategy. To support our members with these challenges, we want to continue to build a strong and effective branch, reflecting our membership and its range of skills and experiences.

You can play a part in this by joining the Kingston UCU branch committee! In advance of our AGM on 07 June 2023, we are now inviting nominations to the Kingston UCU branch committee. There are a range of committee positions available, all of which have facilities time attached. These are funds which you can use to buy out teaching, through discussion with your line manager. See below role descriptions.

Role sharing is welcome, where members would like to split roles. You are also welcome to propose new roles. Suggestions, nominations, and self-nominations are welcome for all roles:  Nomination Form 2023

All nomination forms should be returned by 5pm on Friday 02 June, to the Returning Officer, Maggie Gray at m.gray@kingston.ac.uk.

We would love to have as many people as possible involved in the branch committee! If you have any queries about the roles or the process, please drop us an email, or join us on Slack.

Best wishes,

KU UCU Branch Committee

Kingston UCU branch committee recommends voting REJECT in the e-consultation on the current pay & conditions offer

We are advising our members to vote ‘REJECT‘ in the e-consultation over the current offer on pay and conditions from UCEA (University & Colleges Employers Association)

Having won another historic, formal ballot for industrial action, and with notification of the Marking & Assessment Boycott (MAB) starting 20th April, voting to reject the proposals in the e-ballot sends a strong message to our employers, that we will not settle for less than what our members are worth.

Vote to Reject the E-ballot

In the recent re-ballot, our union members delivered a resolution to continue fighting, with a  56.41% national turnout and resounding vote in favour of extending our mandate for industrial action.

On the Four Fights pay and conditions, higher education staff voted: 85.6% to Strike, and 89.92% to take Action Short of Strike

On the e-ballot for the Four Fights proposals, we are therefore recommending members to vote REJECT. Voting to ‘note’ will be a vote to accept. We do not accept that the proposals are in our members’ best interest. The proposals’ ‘talks about talks’ will give way to accepting the 5% imposed pay increase (an actual pay cut of ~15%) and more empty promises on workload, equalities and casualisation. Having won a resounding formal reballot, the only way to advance our claim for decent working and learning conditions in Higher Education is to continue with the Four Fights, to reject the e-ballot, and to prepare our members for the upcoming Marking and Assessment Boycott.

A full account of our reasons for this recommendation is set out below in an open letter drafted at a meeting of some 60 UCU branch activists from across the UK at an emergency meeting of the UCU Solidarity Movement 4th April. Click here to see signatories and add your name.

Marking and Assessment Boycott starting 20th April

Our employers have been informed that the Marking and Assessment Boycott will start Thursday 20 April 2023, in both our pay and conditions and USS pensions disputes, as decided by the UCU Higher Education Committee (HEC).

Last summer Kingston University UCU were proud to be among a number of institutions to undertake individual Marking and Assessment Boycotts, resulting in good wins for us locally. However, local action cannot address national issues, such as pay and pensions.

Therefore starting in April, we will be joining institutions across the UK in an aggregated Marking and Assessment Boycott. This industrial action is a powerful signal to employers that our members’ working conditions, pay, and pensions are worth fighting for.

From Thursday 20 April, members will cease undertaking all summative marking and associated assessment activities/duties. The boycott also covers assessment-related work such as exam invigilation and the processing of marks. See UCU Marking and Assessment Boycott FAQs here

Kingston UCU Branch will be holding daily support meetings on Zoom throughout the Marking and Assessment Boycott action, with details to follow. In our previous boycott, these meetings proved invaluable to support academic colleagues and deepen solidarity across our members.

In solidarity and thanks, for your continued determination to defend our sector, and to campaign for staff and student access to safe, sustainable higher education.

Kingston UCU Branch Committee

UCU members vote to extend mandate for industrial action in reballot

UCU once again smashed the Tory anti-union thresholds and delivered a resounding YES vote in the re-ballot in the UCU Rising dispute over pay and conditions, and in the dispute over USS pensions. Turnout nationally was 56.41%. Thanks to everyone at Kingston who helped campaign to Get the Vote Out.

The results for UCU’s pay and conditions reballot were:

Are you prepared to take industrial action consisting of strike action?

Yes: 85.65%

No: 14.35%

Are you prepared to take industrial action consisting of action short of strike action?

Yes: 89.92%

No: 10.08%

See the full results for both disputes here

Student Solidarity Zine

We’ve seen fantastic support from Kingston students for our industrial action in the UCU Rising dispute. They know our working conditions are their learning conditions.

Illustration Animation students have created this zine to share information about the strike action and more broadly what a union / strike / picket line is, featuring reportage illustration made on the picket line and at teach-outs:

Students have also made their own posters in support of the strikes, run teach-outs like picket-line life drawing, and made placards, badges and banners. Thank you to Kingston students for their support and solidarity.

Strike action paused

Strike days scheduled for 21, 22, 23, 27, 28 February and 1, 2 March have been withdrawn following negotiations at ACAS (the Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service).

Read the joint statement from trade unions and UCEA here. See the announcement of this decision by General Secretary Jo Grady on twitter here.

Strike days scheduled 16th  – 22nd March remain in place and our current ASOS (Action Short of a Strike) also remains in place.

At the same time UCU is launching a re-ballot of members in the UCU Rising pay and conditions dispute to renew the mandate for industrial action which runs out in April. Ballot papers will arrive from 22nd February. Post you ballot back as soon as possible. UCU recommends voting YES to keep up pressure during negotiations. To ensure you receive your ballot paper, make sure your details are up to date on MyUCU.

Strike action continues Thursday 9th and Friday 10th February

Kingston UCU members are back out on strike in the second week of escalating UCU Rising action in 2023 – strike days are Thursday 9th and Friday 10th February.

Join the picket lines 8am – 12pm at Penrhyn Road and Knights Park. There will also be a digital picket on Zoom at 10am – check linktr.ee/kingstonucu for the link.

There will be teach-outs both days including a picket line life drawing session organised by fine art students at 10am on Thursday at Knights Park. If members, staff, students or supporters are interested in running a teach-out contact us at kingstonucu@gmail.com

Share photos and follow the action on on twitter and instagram @kingstonucu. Find strike graphics & posters to download and share. HPLs can also post their stories on our HPL Precarity Tales padlet

Thursday 9th Feb is Student-Staff Solidarity day organised with NUS. Kingston students have been making solidarity posters. Share our strike explainer for students and talk to them about why we’re striking. Here’s 5 ways students can support the strike:

Don’t forget to claim strike pay from the national UCU Fighting Fund. To claim you need to show evidence of pay deductions so it is important that HPL colleagues claim the hours they would have worked as usual.

To get more involved, join our #strike-committee on slack: kingstonucu.slack.com.

Strike action starts Wednesday 1st February

Next week, February 1st, UCU will be on strike alongside teachers in the NEU, rail workers in ASLEF and the RMT, bus drivers in Unite, civil servants in the PCS, and outsourced UCL security guards in IWGB.  Join the local Kingston UCU picket line 8am – 12pm Penrhyn Road. Given the disruption to public transport we particularly need members who live locally to show up.

If you can’t travel to Kingston but are visiting local picket lines by other branches or unions, share a picture with us by tagging @kingstonucu on twitter or Instagram. There is also demonstration called by the NEU and supported by UCU and PCS in central London – assemble 11am Portland Place W1A 1AA. Look for the Kingston UCU banner.

Our employers have been notified of 17 further days of strike action over the next two months if they do not come to the table with a reasonable offer on pay and conditions.

How to support the strike:

Do not declare in advance whether you will be taking strike action. You are only required to respond to a direct inquiry from your line manager after industrial action has taken place. Employers try to use generic forms to collect information about who will be on strike in order to undermine the action by mitigating its impact.

Do not rearrange timetabled activities scheduled for future strike days. These strike days are designed to escalate with many points in between for employers to table a better offer, in which case they may be called off. Rearranging classes weakens the impact of strike action.

Join the pickets. Visible participation shows strength and support of strike action and amps up the pressure on our employers to make an offer that better meets our demands. We need to show them that they can’t sit back and ride this out.  Sign up for picket lines for 1st, 9th and 10th of February here: signup.com/go/stMgccK. We will be organising online picket organising meeting for Penrhyn Road and Knights Park pickets – details to follow.

Talk to your colleagues and students. Sign up to pickets together, encourage non-members to join. Talk to students about why we are on strike and encourage them to support us in putting pressure on university senior leaders to end this dispute by tabling a reasonable offer. Share our linktr.ee/kingstonucu where the student explainer and letter for students to send to the VC will be updated.

Claim strike pay. Don’t forget to claim from the national UCU Fighting Fund for days of strike action. To claim you need to show evidence of pay deductions so it is important that HPL colleagues claim the hours they would have worked as usual.

Join our #strike-committee on slack: kingstonucu.slack.com.

If you have questions about this industrial action, contact us at kingstonucu@gmail.com.  We will also be running stalls next week so drop by for a chat: 12-2pm Penrhyn Road, Monday 30th January. 12 – 2pm Knights Park, Tuesday 31st January.