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

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.

Kingston UCU launches boycott of Athena Swan activities

With regret, Kingston University UCU are calling for all members and colleagues to implement an immediate boycott of all activities related to Athena Swan accreditations within Kingston University.

While the union supports the principles of the Athena Swan programme nationally, and recognises the hard work of colleagues engaging with the programme locally, we have completely lost faith in the University’s commitment to pledges made under the Athena Swan banner and in their wider commitment to gender equality, and support for parents and carers.

Among the significant, serious, and longstanding concerns Kingston University UCU has, are:

  • Failures to seriously tackle sexual misconduct and violence, and put in place adequate safeguarding measures.
  • Poor treatment and refusals of reasonable requests for flexible working from staff with caring responsibilities.
  • Staff on maternity leave being made redundant.
  • Minimal Paternity Leave
  • Inequality in Promotion and Pay

We have drawn up a set of demands that Kingston University can agree to in order for the boycott to be lifted. Read these demands and find further information about these issues on our website here: https://kingston.web.ucu.org.uk/athena-swan-boycott/

Our current working-to-contract as part of Action Short of a Strike means members should not be undertaking additional voluntary duties such as sitting on charter mark committees (this has revealed how much vital work on equalities is done without proper workload time allocation, creating barriers to involvement for those who are unable to consistently work additional unpaid hours).

Although it closely relates to our national Four Fights dispute, this boycott is a separate local campaign. We expect members to adhere to the boycott until our demands our met and Kingston University commits, within an agreed timeframe, to take meaningful action to address these issues.

Please contact us with any queries and get involved in this campaign and other branch activity.

Further strike days: 28th March – 1st April 2022

Kingston UCU members, along with staff at 68 universities across the UK, will be taking further days of strike action in our Four Fights dispute over spiralling workloads, shrinking pay, insecure contracts and pay inequality.

We are going back out on strike for five more days from 28th March to 1st April 2022

Join us for a Festival of Resistance 11am – 1pm every day outside Penrhyn Road and Knights Park main entrances with music, art, games, food, dance, performance, speeches and more, as well as more teach-outs.

If staff, students, staff networks, student groups or external organisations would like to be a part of this festival please email us at kingstonucu@gmail.com or DM us on twitter or instagram @kingstonucu

If you would like to run a teach-out please fill out this form with them. For more information see What is a Teach-out?

It is not too late for the employers to work with us to seek a resolution to these disputes. There is still time to negotiate and end the action.

UCU members are determined to continue our action until long-term and lasting solutions can be found.

Why Kingston students should support striking staff

A message from Nicola Field
Kingston UCU Postgraduate Student Representative

Strike action is a last resort. We can all see that teaching staff have been pushed to breaking point by unsafe workloads, inequality, insecure contracts, and shrinking pay. It is in the gift of university Vice Chancellors to address these issues and end this strike. But so far they’ve been intransigent, they won’t negotiate with our branch representatives but instead gaslight them over these issues. So lecturers are being forced to ramp up the pressure to make themselves heard, with more days of strike action.

Students have a right to be angry about this disruption and to demand money back. That anger needs to be directed at those responsible – the employers who have pushed things to this, who seemingly don’t care that staff are sick with stress, struggling to get by, and treated unequally – and who won’t commit to meaningful action to address this situation.

Staff and students are on the same side. Like the NUS, UCU members want students to receive a high quality, inclusive, empowering education. If the staff who teach and support them are overworked to the point of burnout, on temporary insecure contracts, underpaid and treated in a discriminatory way, then students are being let down and deserve better. Student support for UCU industrial action so far has been fantastic – visiting their picket lines, joining teach outs, making posters and placards, discussing what our vision for fair and equal education looks like.

Staff are striking this time on February 21, 22, 28 and March 1 & 2.

March 2 will also be the day of the NUS Student Strike for Education, when we will all strike together to demand fully-funded, accessible, lifelong, democratic education for all.

Students’ voices and the students’ union are often listened to much more than staff and staff unions. If we unite and stand together, we can make a better university and better higher education system.

See you on the picket lines!
You will be very welcome to help us make banners and posters – and eat our cakes!

Solidarity to all Kingston staff and students.

More strike days announced

(Photo credit: Diego Evrard-Broquet for The River KU lecturers taking industrial action)

Kingston UCU members, along with staff at 68 universities across the UK, will take further strike action in our dispute with our employers over spiralling workloads, shrinking pay, insecure contracts and pay inequality.

We are going back out on strike on 21st – 22nd February, and 28th February – 2nd March 2022.

These strike days will overlap with strike days at other institutions over changes to the USS pension scheme taking place 14th – 18th and 21st – 22nd February, and the NUS student strike on Wednesday 2 March calling for higher and further education to be free at the point of use for students and for staff to get better working conditions, pay and pensions.

Further industrial action may follow including  rolling regional and UK-wide strike action and a nation-wide marking and assessment boycott.

See you on the picket line.

Outcomes of KSA and Politics ‘consultations’

Kingston University axes History

The outcome of the Kingston School of Art (KSA) ‘consultation’ has been released, buried deep on StaffSpace. There are many errors and misrepresentations and many issues raised by staff in lengthy submissions during the consultation period, have still not been addressed.

Senior management have decided to end all History provision permanently. Kingston University will no longer be a place where History is taught or researched. Management repeatedly emphasized how genuine was their commitment to ‘consultation’, then rejected every single one of the suggestions in the four-page History staff submission.

All remaining historians are facing compulsory redundancy. Claims have been made that History staff were given opportunities to propose ideas for curriculum development and new courses that they didn’t take up – these claims are false. Repeated attempts by History colleagues to engage with management have been simply ignored. Just what does management have against History at this university?

Management have asserted they wanted to avoid compulsory redundancies, yet there has been no meaningful consultation with UCU about avoiding, reducing or mitigating job losses (in breach of the Managing Organisation Restructure policy as well as the university’s statutory obligations under the relevant law provisions in TULCRA Section 188(4)). Redeployment opportunities have not been adequately explored. These staff are being rushed out the door despite their herculean efforts to provide quality teaching during the Covid pandemic.

Moreover, Kingston UCU strongly believes that employment law obligations related to staff with protected characteristics in redundancy situations may have been breached, making a mockery of equality and diversity commitments.

Staff in Media & Communications and Film Studies have lost 3.2FTE colleagues to voluntary redundancy, with an inevitable impact on the workloads of those remaining. No further staff reductions are envisaged by management “this year”, although this suggests this may be revisited in the very near future. No reference is made in the outcome document to the serious impact of this consultation on staff mental health and wellbeing.

Nor has detail been provided about arrangements for PhD students who will lose their supervisors. It’s been suggested to History PhD students that historian supervisors could be replaced by art & design historians (a majority of KU art & design historians signed a statement rejecting this). Another suggestion mooted was that the university could employ external supervisors on short-term contracts with comically low flat-rate remuneration.

A second Politics ‘Consultation’ begins: Job cuts in the pipeline

Members of the Politics department met with the acting head of school on 30 June for the purpose of learning the results of a ‘consultation’ on plans to wind down the Politics department over the coming two years.  This, although the substantive decision regarding the fate of the department – to close recruitment of UG students for the upcoming year – was taken by management prior to the beginning of ‘consultations’ without any input from staff or any substantial effort to help the department to improve its course offer.

Over the first 45-day ‘consultation’, staff were further kept in the dark regarding the target staff-student ratio or the number of jobs to be cut.  Nonetheless, members collaborated to create a lengthy document that highlighted several proposals to revamp UG and PG politics provision.  Only one proposal – that of merging with the Criminology & Sociology department – was accepted by management.

Several people have responded to the stress and disrespect on offer by taking VS.  At the 30th June meeting, however, a further period of ‘consultation’ was announced, which will run from 1 to 31 July.  While in theory, no staff are at risk of redundancy for the 2021/22 year (2.2 fte’s being lost through colleagues taking VS), job cuts will begin in 2022/23 with a reduction of 2.0 FTE from the previous year, and a further 0.0 to 3.0 FTE cut the year that follows (2023/24).  Management say that cuts are to be offset by 3 ring-fenced posts in Economics and Business, and an additional 2 posts in Criminology and Sociology.  Bizarrely, management are asking Politics staff to set out the criteria by which the limited competition for these posts will occur.

This is just the start of the cuts

It is clear from KU22+ plans to focus on eliminating courses ranked in the bottom decile nationally and reducing those ranked in the bottom quartile that this is just the start of the course and job cuts, other courses across the university are assuredly being looked at.

For KSA, this is likely to be compounded by government proposals to cut funding for arts courses including performing arts, art and design, and media studies.

What can you do?

Talk to your colleagues in your department about these cuts. Build awareness and help build the branch.

Get involved by signing up to the activist discussion list, come forward to be a departmental contact or a rep.

Follow the campaigns on Twitter: @kingstonucu @uni_kingston @savekupolitics. Instagram: @kingstonucu @savekingstonuni @savekupolitics.

Ask colleagues in other institutions and professional associations to write to the VC (s.spier@kingston.ac.uk) and Board of Governors (KU-Secretariat@kingston.ac.uk) opposing compulsory redundancies, the withdrawal of History and the winding down of Politics.


Black History Month 2020

Union of Kingston Students have put together a great series of events for Black History Month: www.kingstonstudents.net/bhm2020

Members might be particularly interested in :

There are also BHM events organised by UCU:

The Phenomenal Women photography exhibition will be on public display at the Southbank Centre from 10th October. The project builds on Dr Nicola Rollock’s 2019 report for UCU which showed the barriers faced by black women as they work to navigate their way through higher education.

Two webinars on anti-racism this month –

  • The first will be on ‘systemic racism and how to survive it’ (14 October 5.00-6.30pm) and features contributors from sister unions the NASUWT and the NEU.
  • The second is a follow-up to the webinar on decolonising and is entitled ‘decolonising your workplace’ (21 October 1.00-2.00pm).

More details and links/information will be available on the UCU website: Black History Month

Black Lives Matter

We would like to support and reiterate this statement from UCU in solidarity with Black Lives Matter and the protests against the murder of George Floyd and racism in the US and here in the UK and around the world: UCU Standing Proudly Against Racism

We are aware that as a branch that we need to better support BAME staff and students and fight against institutional racism in our university and HE more broadly. Kingston University needs to offer much more than bland platitudes about diversity and we support the demands of Union of Kingston Students that the university take an unequivocal stand in support of black students and staff and Black Lives Matter.

We welcome members to share ideas on what we as a branch can do (see Get Involved) – in particular we are looking for additional members to join the branch committee as Equalities Reps – to help represent BAME, migrant, LGBTQ+, women, and disabled staff (training and allocated work hours are available). Please get in touch if you are interested.

And please get in touch with local reps if you have issues to raise about racism in our workplace or ideas to share about anti-racist activism the branch could support or get involved in.

Kingston UCU branch committee