UCU Strike 2021-22

Kingston Staff Have Had Enough

Alongside UCU branches at universities across the country, Kingston UCU members took strike action and action short of a strike (ASOS) in the 2021-2 academic year. On 23rd May 2022, as part of ASOS, we started a marking & assessment boycott which ended 17th June with a local agreement in principle.

Kingston staff took industrial action over ‘Four Fights’: unsafe workloads, shrinking pay, rising job insecurity, and pay inequality seen in ethnicity, disability and gender pay gaps.

These issues are not just damaging our mental and physical health, they are impacting our ability to do the best teaching, research and professional work we can. Students deserve better than exhausted undervalued staff burnt out by insecurity, inequality and overwork. We are at breaking point. These conditions are unsustainable and the future of higher education is at stake.

On strike days staff who are Kingston UCU members withdraw their labour. They do not undertaken teaching, research, respond to emails, go to meetings, attend conferences or events, do marking, prepare classes, hold academic support hours or fulfil administrative tasks, whether on campus or online.

Members do not have to declare in advance they are striking, in particular they should not self-declare via generic HR forms intended to undermine our action. After strike action has taken place, members should respond truthfully to direct inquiries by line managers as to whether they took part. Members participating can claim strike pay from the UCU Fighting Fund – see details here: Fighting Fund.

There is FAQ guidance about taking strike action on the UCU national website. There is a separate FAQs for migrant members. UCU has also produced guidance to strike and action short of a strike (ASOS) for members on casualised contracts.

KU staff who are not UCU members are welcome to join and take part in this action.

Find out more about what the dispute is about here.

We’ve also made a strike explainer for students here. Students voted 82% in favour of supporting our strike in a UKS referendum.

All local information and links needed for the strike are on our linktr.ee/kingstonucu.

Previous strike days were 1st, 2nd, and 3rd December 2021…

and 21st – 22nd February and 28th February – 2nd March 2022

and 28th March to 1st April 2022.

On these strike days there were lively picket lines at the entrances of Kingston buildings, as well as a local digital picket and daily cross-branch digital pickets, including ones hosted by our branch on the mental health crisis at UK universities and on student-staff solidarity with speakers from the Sussex Solidarity Sit-In, Kingston students, and NUS President Larissa Kennedy. Many students did not to cross the picket line in solidarity with our strike and stood with us in support instead. We ran an exciting program of teach-outs both staff and student-led.

Follow our strike action on twitter and instagram with the hashtags #KUStaffStrikeBack and #KUStaffHaveHadEnough. See press coverage here. Read our strike flyer, and find strike graphics & posters to download and share.

Following these strike days, Kingston UCU members undertook ongoing action short of a strike (ASOS).

This involves working to contract, not covering for absent colleagues, not rescheduling lectures or classes cancelled due to strike action, 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, and not undertaking any voluntary activities. 

UCU members will only carry out duties specified in their role description during the hours stipulated per working week in their contract. Any ‘reasonable’ requests from line managers to do additional work over and above¬† normal weekly hours, must be put in writing and quantified.

Guidance on how to work to contract, including spreadsheets for calculating hours and template letters to use in communications with line managers are available on the UCU website – Reclaim our time: ASOS campaign. We have also produced a set of ASOS FAQs.

Find here further information and resources about excessive workload and unpaid overwork.

From 23rd May 2022 our ASOS also included a Marking & Assessment boycott. This aspect of ASOS ended 17th June with an agreement in principle for working together on local actions to address the issues that have long been a concern raised at our formal JNCC meetings with senior management, which also chime with the current Four Fights dispute.