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

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

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.

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.

Ballot opens today 16th March, ends 8th April. Vote Early and Vote YES

From 16th March Kingston UCU members are being balloted on extending industrial action over our Four Fights beyond the current remit which ends in May.

The ballot ends 5pm Friday 8th April.

Members will get posted a ballot paper with a prepaid envelope for returning your vote. To check the address your ballot is being sent to, go to www.ucu.org.uk/myucu . If you need to order a replacement ballot papers, please email us at kingstonucu@gmail.com Get your vote in the post as soon as you can – don’t leave it to the last minute!

Why it is important to vote?

2016 Conservative legislation put additional restrictions on trade unions trying to take industrial action including a 50% turnout threshold. 50% members must vote for it to count. This means if you don’t vote, you don’t just silence yourself, you stop the voices of other members being heard.

What is the vote about?

It’s over whether to extend our action over the Four Fights dispute: unsafe workload, pay inequality, insecure jobs & shrinking pay.

A renewed mandate would allow us to continue and escalate our action, e.g. to a marking boycott, putting more pressure on employers to negotiate over our demands and resolve this dispute.

How to vote?

We recommend voting YES to strike action and  YES to action short of a strike.

These issues aren’t going away, they’re getting worse. We either act, or we accept. Let’s fight to win!

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.

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.

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.