Press coverage of Kingston UCU on strike 1-3rd December 2021

Regular strike updates are being posted on twitter and instagram – thanks to everyone for their support!

The River scooped the story of the UCU strike at Kingston with an article by Diego Evrard-Broquet. We’ve had some great conversations at the picket lines with other River writers, showing the strength and quality of teaching in the Department of Journalism, Publishing and Media despite job cuts this summer that have seen staff workloads increase.

Fantastic support from students was evident in a report by James Mayer for MyLondon: ‘London university students support lecturer strikes but say tuition fees are wasted’

Response to Email from HR Director & Strike Update

  1. Response to email from Emily Boynton

29th November staff received an email from Emily Boynton, the current HR Director, on the topic of our upcoming actions (strike and ASOS).

The first thing to note is that you are under no obligation to complete the online form to let the university know that you are intending to take industrial action. The detail on pension contributions in the email is irrelevant and misleading. This is discussed explicitly in the UCU dispute FAQs:

Do I have to tell my employer that I am taking industrial action?

No. It is often the case that management will send out emails/letters demanding that you declare in advance whether you will be taking industrial action. This can have the effect of misleading and intimidating members, and will enable your employer to minimise any disruption. You are under no obligation to inform management in advance as to whether you will be taking part in strike action or action short of a strike. UCU will provide your employer with all the information about the action required by law including those categories of members who we are calling on to take action. Once you are back to work following the strike action, you should respond truthfully to any query from your employer as to whether you have taken or are taking industrial action. You should not, however, respond to any such query while you are on strike.

The online form circulated by Boynton also requests that we let the university know whether we will be participating in ASOS by working our contracted hours. The university should expect that all staff – UCU members and non-members – are working their contracted hours, except in exceptional circumstances. Consequently, we should not declare our intentions to participate in ASOS either as it can be seen as a reasonable and legally-justified means of ensuring our wellbeing and work-life balance.

  1. Petition for all strike deductions from salaries to be donated to student hardship fund

We will request that all strike deductions from salaries will be donated to the student hardship fund at Kingston University. LSE has already responded favourably to a response from its own local UCU branch. Therefore we are optimistic that our management will take a similar approach.

  1. Haven’t booked your picket slot yet? 

We are expecting all members to sign up to at least one three hour slot. Check inboxes for the link to the signup.If you can’t join us physically, please join us on the digital picket line this Wednesday, Thursday and Friday, from 10-11am at this link.

On strike days, we will have rallying points at the front of Penrhyn Road and the front of Knight’s Park at 10am and 1230pm so please do join us at either of those locations at those times.

  1. ASOS guidance

Action short of strike (working to contract) begins on December 1st. UCU central are putting on a series of briefings about ASOS and what it means in practice this week. Please see email from Jo Grady (29th November) for the sign-up links. The branch will circulate further guidance on ASOS in the coming days.

Strike action starts next week

Members can find all the key information and resources on Kingston UCU linktree –  including strike explainer documents which you can share with your students, social media graphics etc.

There is a useful FAQs about taking strike action on the UCU website.

Check inboxes for links to sign up to pickets – see you on the picket line!

Kingston UCU members to strike 1st -3rd December, followed by action short of a strike

Kingston UCU met the 60% turnout threshold on a national ballot over the ‘four fights’, with a majority of those who voted endorsing both strike action and action short of strike (ASOS). Because we met the minimum 50% turnout required, we now have a legal mandate to do both of these things.
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Following discussion at the branch meeting on 10th November, the branch Chair and Vice-Chair fed back the views of Kingston UCU members to the national branch delegates meeting. Following this, a decision by was taken by UCU national to instruct its members to:
  • Undertake 3 days of strike action between Wednesday 1st and Friday 3rd December
  • Commence ASOS (working to contract) from December 1st
Kingston UCU will be participating in both of these actions. Branch meetings will take place on Wednesday 24th at 1pm or 7pm to discuss how the branch will manage both strike action and ASOS.

Four Fights ballot result: Kingston staff vote for industrial action

Our branch has achieved a phenomenal 60% turnout in the national Four Fights ballot over over unsafe workloads, casualisation, pay deflation, and the gender, ethnicity and disability pay gaps. This was in spite of the incredibly short ballot period and issues with missing ballot papers, and is a huge increase on our turnout of 32% in the last ballot in 2019.
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92% of members endorsed some form of action, with 70% voting in favour of strike action and 92% in favour of action short of strike.
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We will be talking through what this means at our branch meeting Wednesday 10th November 1-3pm on Zoom, with our discussion feeding into a national delegates meeting before the UCU Higher Education Committee convenes on Friday 12th. Please come along if you can. Check inboxes for links.
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Thank you to everyone who voted and all those departmental contacts and activists who helped out with the Get the Vote Out campaign

Updates on Four Fights dispute ballot

Ballots have gone out and should be returned as soon as possible. To order a replacement ballot use this online ballot replacement request form. You must order your replacement by 5pm Thursday 28th October.

Members of the Kingston UCU branch committee have made a video explainer about how the Four Fights on pay and conditions relate to the situation staff face at Kingston.

We’ve also been posting about each of the Four Fights and why #KingstonStaffHaveHadEnough on twitter and instagram.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We’ve had great support from Kingston students, who have produced their own posters. We’ve also made a flyer explaining the dispute to students that can be shared.

To help us get the vote out at Kingston and pass the legal threshold of 50%+ members voting, please

If you have questions about either the ballot or the Four Fights dispute, please Contact Us and / or see these FAQs:

Ballot on industrial action over Four Fights dispute opens

Kingston UCU members will be balloted from Monday 18th October to Thursday 4th November on the Four Fights dispute over unsafe workloads, casualisation, pay deflation, and the gender, ethnicity and disability pay gaps.

See here for more information about what the dispute is about and how these issues relate to staff at Kingston.

See here for details of how to cast your vote and why it is so important (we need 50% of the membership to vote for it to count!)

We will contacting members to remind them to vote and answer any questions they have. Contact us or talk to a member of the branch committee in your faculty.

Help get the vote out and make it count! Talk to members in your department about the dispute and remind them to vote. Download posters here and put them up in your office.

We are at breaking point.

Vote YES and send the message to management: Kingston staff have had enough

 

Top Quartile Kingston Politics Courses Should be Re-opened

Politics at Kingston University has leapt up the Guardian league table for UK Universities from ranking 61st in 2021 to 17th in 2022. This extraordinary result puts Politics in the top quartile nationwide for the discipline.

To emphasise the achievement, Kingston Politics is ranked the second highest post-92 institution in the entire UK, missing the top spot only by a small margin. The Guardian’s table ranks Kingston Politics markedly ahead of all comparable London region institutions, considered to be its competitors.

The achievement of a top quartile ranking is the fruit of the great commitment and teamwork between staff and students in the Politics department over the last three years.

Significantly, the result is entirely at odds with the unduly pessimistic forecasts of market ‘research’ that was commissioned and used as evidence by senior management for its decision to suspend and then close Politics undergraduate courses.

While a competitive league table is only one way of assessing departmental performance, even so it is an important one because it feeds through into candidate student choices.

The Guardian top quartile ranking completely validates the academic staff’s case that there has been a clear uptick in teaching and learning performance, and especially the students’ campaign to keep the department open.

Based on this new evidence, senior management should reconsider its closure decision as hasty, ill-informed but above all ill-judged.

Rather than bury the news as an inconvenient truth, senior management should build on this latest success, and reopen Kingston’s top quartile performing undergraduate Politics courses for recruitment in 2022/23.

More coverage of Kingston job and course cuts

The jobs cuts and planned course closures at Kingston following the KSA and Politics ‘consultations’ made it onto the front page of the Surrey Comet again in July.

As noted, ‘Staff have described the mental health impact of losing their livelihoods during a pandemic, in which they have made exceptional efforts to teach and support students, as “inhumane”. They’ve described the consultation process as a “sham” in which none of the issues raised over errors and omissions in the rationale, or counter proposals put forwards, were engaged with, and substantive decisions had already been taken.’

The response from the university ‘spokesperson’ fails to even mention the decision to axe History, or the fact all remaining historians face compulsory redundancy, nor that staff in Media & Communications and Film Studies have lost valued colleagues to voluntary severance and now face intensified workloads.

As Steve Woodbridge, Senior Lecturer in History states, “The decision to axe all history provision flies in the face of promises the University made to retain a history ‘footprint’ and ensure future engagement with the study of history. The University has also completely ignored the voices of national organisations who represent the history profession and who expressed their concern at Kingston’s plans, such as History UK and the Royal Historical Society.”

The Royal Historical Society themselves have followed up their initial announcement on the threats to History courses in post-1992 universities with a strong statement explicitly decrying Kingston’s decision to permanently withdraw History provision, the consequences for History staff, and the reputational impact of these cuts, noting “We are all the poorer for the loss of this hub of historical excellence”. Here is the statement in full: