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 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.

Students vote overwhelmingly for Union of Kingston Students to support strike action

From Monday 7th February to Wednesday 9th February, all Kingston University students were invited by Union of Kingston Students to vote in a referendum that asked the question: “Should the Students’ Union support UCU’s upcoming strike?”

The result was a resounding YES – 82% of students were in support and 18% against.

A minimum turnout of 500 was needed for the result to be valid – this threshold was smashed with a whopping 1,286 students voting. The Union of Kingston Students will be following this up with a series of actions (which you can read about here).

This is a resounding and historic success for our Kingston community. It is clear that Kingston students are with us in this fight for better working (and learning) conditions and that any attempts to pit students against staff will likely be unsuccessful.

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.

Kingston UCU demand pay deductions from strike action be donated to student hardship fund

Kingston UCU have written to senior management to demand, in conjunction with Union of Kingston Students, that any money deducted from staff salaries as a result of taking strike action in December 2021, be donated to the student hardship fund. Other universities, such as Essex, UCL, and LSE, have agreed to do this.

Here is a copy of the letter:

Dear Helen,

We write to you in your capacity as chair of the JNCC at Kingston University and ask that you disseminate this communication to the wider Senior Management Team.

We are disappointed to learn that the university has chosen to take the unsupportive and punitive action of making deductions from the salaries of staff who declared themselves to have taken part in strike action in December 2021. The UCU national Four Fights campaign highlights the issues of excessive workload, casualisation, inequality and pay deflation, all of which are extremely pertinent to Kingston staff.

While we acknowledge that the employer is within their rights in taking this action, it is disheartening and demoralising that the current university leadership have carried out their threat to deduct payment from hard working staff, the majority of whom regularly work longer than contracted hours carrying out unpaid work from which the university benefits greatly. All this at a time when senior management are actively working towards awarding themselves pay increases. It is a further demonstration of the callous and uncaring attitude that senior management repeatedly display towards staff at Kingston and is detrimental to the continually deteriorating relationship between senior management and staff as evidenced by the recent staff survey.

Therefore, in conjunction with the Union of Kingston Students, we demand that the total sum of salaries deducted (and other cost savings incurred by KU such as pension and NI contributions) be made public and the equivalent sum be donated to the student hardship fund.

Rosie McNiece

KU UCU Vice-chair

on behalf of KU UCU branch committee

Press coverage of Kingston UCU strike 2021-2

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’

International student Radhita Jain said:

“The strikes haven’t impacted us much, I think we just really want to support it. We spoke to our tutors and they said they aren’t being paid enough which is quite unfair granted that me being an international student is paying £16,400 for one year.”

Great student support was also evident in coverage by Danai Nesta Kupemba for the Kingston Courier: Video: Kingston University lecturers strike for better pay and working conditions

Philosophy student Will said:

“The strike attempts to call out systems that make it impossible to continue learning at this university and to do this we need to support our lecturers.”

The Kingston Courier also covered the second round of strike days in February – March 2022 in an article by Kieran Kelly: Kingston University UCU members engage in more strikes

Our Postgrad Rep, Nicola Field is quoted:

“We can see the terrible pressures that staff are under and the unbearable working conditions. They have unmanageable workloads and there are terrible discriminatory pay gaps against BAME, women and disabled staff. A huge number of university staff across the whole country are on insecure contracts, precarity is having an absolute crashing, destructive effect on the sector.”

The Courier‘s Ciaran Nerval covered our third round of strike action in March – April: Lecturers take strike action at Kingston University over pay rates and workload  

See the video with KU UCU members spelling out what our dispute it about:

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!

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