Agreement negotiated with senior management related to marking & assessment boycott

Here is the agreement in principle negotiated between Kingston UCU and Kingston University for working together on local actions to address the issues that have long been a concern raised at our JNCC meetings with management which also chime with the current Four Fights dispute for which we have successfully obtained a mandate for industrial action, including a marking & assessment boycott:

22-06-13 JNCC Joint Statement FINAL

Kingston UCU members voted at the emergency branch meeting Monday 13th June to accept this agreement in principle.

Friday 17th June UCU formally lifted the marking & assessment boycott at Kingston University

Join the Kingston UCU branch committee

At our forthcoming Annual General Meeting (AGM) which will take place 11th August 2022, we will have elections for the branch committee.

Any member can stand for any role, and roles can be shared. Branch committee roles come with ‘Facilitiies Time’ funds which you can use to buy out teaching, in discussion with your line manager. You are additionally entitled to take time to attend national UCU training.

Below are the positions available (also accessible as a Committee Roles powerpoint file).You can also see which posts current holders are standing down from ‘Vacant Posts’). All positions are up for election. To find out more, email kingstonucu@gmail.com or talk to a current branch committee member in your School or Faculty.

Here is the Nomination Form to complete and send to returning officer Dr Fran Mackenzie (via email F.Mackenzie@kingston.ac.uk). The deadline for receipt of nominations is 17:00h on Friday 8th July 2022.

We need to build a strong branch committee which reflects our membership and its range of experience and skills!

Equality Espresso! June 14th – 20th 2022, 10am daily Zoom

During the marking & assessment boycott, we have been having daily meetings on Zoom to support one another in our current industrial actions. These informal meetings are really lively and supportive.

We would like to continue to use this forum to highlight and discuss equality issues at the University– which are all trade union issues – in an informal and accessible way. We are hoping members of our branch will share their personal experiences, ideas for the branch, perhaps art work, research in the area, and more!

We will start on Tuesday the 14th of June 10am, discussing race equality and the associated pay gaps at Kingston University. Has any progress been made since we sent our 2020 Anti-Racism Recommendations to the VC?

On Wednesday the 15th of June, we will discuss disability, the associated pay gap, and the issues staff have had with accessibility and accommodation of their needs.

On Thursday the 16th of June, we will discuss gender equality and the associated pay gaps at Kingston University. We want to stress that this is not just for women – there are gender pay gaps for some men working in professional services, in particular. In addition, gender equality covers the whole spectrum.

On Friday the 17th of June, we will discuss neurodiversity in the workplace and the issues staff have with accommodation of who they are.

On Monday the 20th of June we will finish off discussing LGBTQ+ topics for Pride Month! Nicola from our branch committee was an original member of Lesbians and Gays Support the Miners – and she can say a few words about parallels between attacks on lesbians and gays in the 1980s and attacks on trans rights now.

Please come bring your thoughts and contributions to our Equality Espresso on Zoom at 10 a.m. all week.

If you would like to share a story anonymously with the group, you can contact the KU UCU Equality Officer, Lori Snyder, ahead of time on kingstonucu@gmail.com with ATTN Equality Officer in the subject line.

If anyone needs anything to enable their attendance in addition to what can be achieved with their set up on Zoom, please let us know – including if the 10 a.m. time does not work because we can look at repeating these events at another time in a future month.

In solidarity,

Kingston UCU branch committee

Updates & Good News

Solidarity from the front line!

The Marking and Assessment Boycott is already having a big effect at Kingston and across the HE sector. Senior management are running scared.

Kingston’s senior leadership are putting out communications which are at best dubious, clearly designed to intimidate. All external examiners have been sent a threatening email demanding they confirm by today if they are participating in the boycott. This is despite the fact that external examination is not covered by the boycott. We have prepared a template message members can send to external examiners, so please use it wherever you can and need.

INFORMATION FOR LINE MANAGER MEMBERS

Following yesterday’s clarification about notification, a reminder that managers should only be asking about past/current participation in the boycott, not future intentions. Members who are line managers should also follow advice from UCU here: UCU members who are heads of department or managers

THE BOYCOTT IS WORKING

Further afield, boycott actions have already forced university senior management into negotiations on pensions and 3 of the Four Fights. Kingston’s senior leadership have also made minor concessions even before the boycott started. Students at Leeds University, where the Vice-Chancellor has refused to meet with UCU officers, have occupied management offices forcing the VC to speak with them. Ulster University locked out its UCU teaching staff by announcing 100% deductions for the boycott. After negative publicity and reputational damage, the university has now offered to negotiate locally, and staff are back working but still staying in the boycottIt’s working, even with comparatively few participating. It’s never too late to join in.

FINANCE
The central concerns remain around pay deductions and intimidation. We sent out guidance about giving notification of participating in the boycott yesterday. Do get in touch if you need further support.

We are addressing potential deductions very seriously, and our aim is to mitigate hardship and losses to a significant extent through:

  1. Local hardship fund– share and donate!
  2. Central hardship fund this has received donations from £15 to £50k from branches with member levies – so all members can apply to this.
  3. Twinning. We are linking up with 5 branches which didn’t reach the threshold for action or which aren’t acting in the boycott. This is a central plank of a cross-branch solidarity strategy initiated by Heriot-Watt UCU – see document here: The Heriot Watt Strategy 2022. This will be a source of financial, social, and political solidarity for us now, providing the foundations of more mutual aid in the dispute going forward.

We’re also pleased to announce RHUL-UCU passed a motion of support for Kingston UCU and agreed an initial donation of £500. We are grateful to RHUL-UCU, and look forward to further fundraising and solidarity activities with our twinned institutions, now also including KCL.

SUPPORTING/SUPPORT FROM STUDENTS

It is important to keep communicating with students about the boycott, including the support we can give them, and how they can support us by putting pressure on our senior leadership to resolve this dispute by entering into meaningful negotiations. Share the Kingston UCU letter to students about the boycott and the e-poster produced by student members of UCU and Kingston UCU branch committee (left).

Again, please do not hesitate to get in touch if you have any concerns or questions.

Good luck & solidarity,

Kingston UCU branch committee

Update on giving notification

Kingston UCU Members will have received an email from HR late on Monday 23rd May requesting they complete an online form regarding participation in the marking & assessment boycott.

Pay deductions

Given the lack of clarity in the email, we are seeking urgent clarification from HR as to whether senior management are intending to impose 50% pay deductions, or 100% pay deductions with a “voluntary ex-gratia payment” equivalent to 50% of salary, as well as on the threat to withdraw any ex-gratia payment at any time.

A number of other aspects of what is both stated and not stated in the email need urgent clarification. We will update members as soon as we receive a response.

Notification

There are some misleading statements about UCU advice regarding notification of participation in action short of a strike (ASOS).

UCU guidance states: ‘If you are asked about whether you are participating in ASOS including the marking and assessment boycott, you should respond only in terms of what action you have taken/are currently taking, but not answer about future intentions regarding ASOS. This will mean that employers will need to keep checking for confirmation as to whether or not you have participated in ASOS and what forms of ASOS you have participated in and when. If you are asked directly whether you participated in ASOS in the past or are participating in it now (whatever the timeframe, be it last week, yesterday, or today) you should respond truthfully, but you should not declare your intentions regarding future action.’

You should answer a direct request for information about your current individual participation in ASOS truthfully. This does not require completing generic, blanket HR forms intended to undermine industrial action (which do not provide any information about the secure storage or retention schedule for the personal data collected, e.g. regarding trade union membership). You are under no obligation to notify your employer/manager in advance of starting action.

Financial support and solidarity available to members:

The UCU national Fighting Fund is available to all members subjected to 100% ASOS deductions as well for strike days.

We have also launched a local Kingston UCU hardship fund to supplement the national fund for those in particular need. Five other UCU branches, who didn’t pass the threshold to take action in the most recent ballot, are tabling motions to twin with us and provide direct financial support.

ASOS

We remind members that our current ASOS covers the following:

  • working to contract
  • not covering for absent colleagues
  • removing uploaded materials related to, and/or not sharing materials related to, lectures or classes that will be or have been cancelled as a result of strike action
  • not rescheduling lectures or classes cancelled due to strike action
  • not undertaking any voluntary activities; and
  • a marking and assessment boycott.

Find all information about the Marking & Assessment boycott here, including further detailed FAQs, as well as resources on our linktree, including an explainer to share with students.

For more news and updates join our discussion list:  UCUKINGSTONDISCUSSION.

You can also join our regular support meetings, held daily on Zoom throughout the boycott period: Daily 10:00am on Zoom.

In solidarity,

Kingston UCU branch committee

Top up the Fund Appeal

Today is the first day of the marking boycott, an action supported by our members in Kingston UCU in a final vote last Friday 20 May.  Solidarity to everyone at Kingston and its sister unions throughout the country who are taking part!   

We blew past our original target of £1000 pounds a mere 24 hours after launching the appeal, and offer a mighty thanks to everyone who have pitched in so far!  We’ve had donations and messages of solidarity from the Kingston community and beyond.

We have 46 days more to go in the Top Up the Fund appeal, and are hoping to raise much more to support our members who are starting to take action today.

All the more so as we learn that Kingston management have joined the leader board of the PEF – the Punitive Employer Framework (let’s make this a thing!!) – by being one of the top 10 employers threatening to deduct 100% pay from workers taking this legal action!

Please help us to fight back and to mark the first day of the boycott by sharing the appeal on your networks

Are you a Kingston UCU member and not able to participate in the marking boycott?  Then why not commit to sharing a part of your wages to help support those who are?  You can set up a regular monthly donation with your next donation! 

Solidarity and strength to those starting the boycott action today!

How Kingston senior management can take action to address our Four Fights demands

Kingston UCU has sent the following to senior leaders as our formal contribution to the Joint Negotiating and Consultative Committee (JNCC) meeting this month due to take place 17th May, but cancelled by senior management:
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We call upon the Vice Chancellor and Senior Leadership Team of Kingston University to act upon the points within the University and College Union’s Four Fights campaign that they have acknowledged can be addressed, in part, at the local level. These demands must be met now to acknowledge the strength of feeling amongst staff that Kingston University must be transformed to create an equitable workplace.
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Workload  
  1. Publish the current number of staff vacancies in all areas of the University and commit to immediately advertise these vacancies by the end of June 2022.
  2. To further commit to recruit to these vacancies before the end of Teaching Block 1 2022.
  3. To proactively communicate to all fractional staff, before the beginning of Teaching Block 1 2022, the mechanism for having their fraction increased if their role and responsibilities have expanded and their fraction no longer fairly covers their workload.
  4. To repeat this communication to fractional staff and process at least once per year on an ongoing basis.
Casualization  
  1. To proactively communicate to all HPL and fixed term staff with clear guidance on the process to be made permanent and to invite casualized staff to begin this process by the end of June 2022.
  2. To communicate with all line managers and HR colleagues, by the end of June 2022, on how to actively support the process of conversion of temporary staff to permanent contracts with a view to maximizing conversion of staff.
  3. To convert all eligible staff on HPL or fixed term contracts to permanent fractional or full-time posts at the appropriate spine point and on a fraction that fairly reflects their workload and to complete these conversions to permanent before the beginning of Teaching Block 1 2022.
Pay  
  1. To give all staff –regardless of grade or salary – a one-off £1000 bonus to acknowledge the extraordinary workload consequences of the Covid pandemic and the return to campus, and acknowledge the professional commitment, care and goodwill that staff extended to their students and colleagues to enable the university community to function through this period.
  2. To halt all further strike deductions – as to date these have been taken in punitive single deductions which have inflicted real financial distress on their own employees, including employees supporting dependents.
  3. To donate those strike deductions already taken in April to the student hardship fund, to be available to all students in financial distress.
  4. To commit to write an open letter to UCEA stating that ongoing and future pay negotiations must match inflation in order to prevent staff suffering during the cost of living crisis and halt the further erosion of pay in the sector.
  5. To publish on StaffSpace, send to all staff via the newsletter, and send to all line managers the process for bonus pay and requesting an increase in pay via spine point by the end of June 2022.
Equalities  
  1. To immediately cease the use of NDAs in all cases of bullying and harassment, and all processes relating to grievances, staff conduct or disciplinary processes.
  2. To align Kingston’s harassment, bullying and discrimination policies to sector-leading policies, and the measures advocated by campaign groups within this sphere.
  3. To roll out training on the prevention of sexual harassment, bullying and discrimination to all managers, supervisors and HR partners throughout the academic year 2022.
  4. To ensure that staff contributing to EDI initiatives, including networks, awards and benchmarking, have this work properly recognised within workload models, recognised in progression and promotion, (and through salary increase or acting up for leading roles.) To be completed within Teaching Block 1 2022
  5. To liaise with trade unions to identify key areas of non-promotable workload in the university and ask each department to conduct an equalities impact assessment on who conducts this non-promotable work. To respond to the equalities impact assessment to urgently correct imbalances in which staff undertake this work.
  6. To address the gender, race, and disability pay gaps that are increasing across the University through direct action, involving increasing these staff members spine points and temporary staff hourly wages, as needed. This should be accomplished by the end of Teaching Block 1 2022, guided by the already collected data from the University’s own report on these gaps.

Kingston University UCU branch committee

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.

Local press coverage of Kingston UCU Athena Swan boycott

Our local boycott of Athena Swan activities over our complete loss of faith in Kingston University’s commitments to gender equality and support for parents and carers has been covered in an article by Miranda Dunne in the Kingston Courier: Kingston Union launches boycott of ‘tick box’ gender equality charter

We have written to the Courier and the leader of Kingston Council highlighting errors in the statement made by a university spokerperson in this article – this boycott is independent of our current industrial action, and that action is over Four Fights related to pay and conditions, not just the 2021-2 pay offer.

Four Fights Ballot results: KU UCU smashes threshold again and members vote strongly for further strike action

In the recent ballot over renewing our mandate for strike action and action short of a strike (ASOS) in the Four Fights dispute, Kingston UCU once again smashed the anti-union threshold, with 59% of members voting. The results were also again emphatically in favour of continuing our industrial action, with 71% voting for strike action and 85% for action short of a strike.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In total 39 UCU branches will have a mandate for strike action running until October 2022 and 41 for ASOS, with the national vote closely matching our local one. The next steps are to take our branches’ views to the a special higher education sector conference on April 20th.

We are holding a branch meeting 19th April 11am online to gather Kingston UCU members opinions and ideas for the delegates from our branch to bring to the special conference. See inboxes for the Teams link.