National Strike Events & Pickets at Kent

National Strike Events at Kent

Thursday 24th 

  • CANTERBURY Pickets 8:30 – 10:00

  • Staff – Student Rally 10:30

  • UCU Social – Unicorn pub 12:00

Friday 25th

Wednesday 30th 

  • National London Demo 13:00

  • CANTERBURY Picket 14:00 – 16:00 (only Law School confirmed so far)

 

Why I’m striking – in your own words

“I’m striking in solidarity with members who are going to be hit the hardest by the cost of living crisis and rise in inflation – which is not being met by an equitable pay rise. We work in a sector where a huge number of workers are on precarious or zero-hours contracts, whilst our senior management earn upwards of £100k.”

“I’m striking because I’m struggling with my workload and it’s taking its toll on my mental and physical health. We all work way over our contracted hours because we’re not given another choice and receive no support. Something needs to change.”

“I’m striking because my students are angry. My students have been angry for the past three years. They’re at a university which doesn’t value them, doesn’t value their degrees, and doesn’t value the people who support and educate them. I’m striking because the university COULD be better.”

“I’m striking because we cannot continue to give our students the best of ourselves when every year for a decade we have had an effective pay cut. We cannot go on living in fear about paying the rent or living our old age in poverty. There is no choice but to strike. We have no power to protect ourselves otherwise. A university run in inequality and by staff in constant fear for their jobs is not a university in which students flourish.”

What you can do

If you can afford to donate to your striking colleagues in financial need, do so here:

 Unity Trust Bank

Account name UCU Kent LA26

Account number 20391184

Sortcode 60-83-01

Click for the latest on Kent job security & possible programme closures

EG to cut degree programmes in ALL divisions?

Sign the petition here

  • Kent’s Executive Group (EG) are considering closing a large number degree programmes across ALL divisions, not just the Arts & Humanities (which has hitherto been the focus of cuts).
  • Any degree that recruits under 20 students could be at risk.
  • Undergraduate tuition fees are still the university’s main source of income and they are used to pay staff salaries.

 

What EG seem to want

  • “Fix” timetabling issues by cutting degree programmes & modules

  • Create ‘mega’ degrees, with less specialisation, less student choice and less research led teaching

  • Cut degree programmes → Lose students & income → Make jobs unviable

This is a significant & credible threat

  • EG have *already* scrapped the Social Policy programme in SSPSSR (a particularly strong & successful department), without consulting staff or trade unions.

  • Our recent deal of ‘no compulsory redundancies for all staff’ expires on 31st December 2022.

  • Our new deal (which is still being negotiated) of ‘no compulsory redundancies for staff in A&H as a result of the review’ does not cover staff outside A&H – EG have only just made public their intention to scrap degree programmes outside of A&H. While we have protection from immediate redundancies, if degree programmes are ‘taught out’ and closed over the next few years, EG are likely to cut more staff once those programmes are closed, or offer ‘bumped redundancy’ e.g. redundancy after an agreed period like 2-3 years.

  • Note that our deal so far is still a significant achievement – witness the threat of mass compulsory redundancies at Birkbeck.

What degree programme closures mean

  • After one to three years of losing student income, EG are likely to use this as a pretext to impose compulsory redundancies.

  • You may be pressured to take “Voluntary Severance”. If you have any verbal or written evidence of this, email krichardson-dawes@ucu.org.uk.

  • You may be forced or pressured to accept a new role on far lower pay. The branch is trying to negotiate a better redeployment policy, including no downgrading.

  • You are far less likely to teach your research specialisms & programmes you have nurtured over the years.

EG’s record

  • A “Kent Vision” IT system so dysfunctional it has failed to keep even the most basic records of student registration and attendance.

  • Kent Vision problems have resulted in significant issues retaining students, who staff worked so hard to recruit.

  • A failing timetabling system, which has compounded the issues above. There has been a 100% turnover of staff in timetabling in the past 12 months. In this respect, the university is not fulfilling its basic functions.

  • ‘Organising for Success’ has been a failure, with systems and structures far less effective, and staff workloads at impossible levels.

UCU’s alternative vision

  • Kent UCU negotiators have put forward counter proposals for recruitment growth, as well as a fairer, partial and temporary redeployment policy. The branch has proposed bringing back highly profitable joint honours programmes, which generated over £1 million in income.

  • EG has until 21st November to negotiate with us over our concerns about CRs and related issues. We’ll be in touch after this date with what EG are offering us.

What you need to do to halt programme closures

  • Sign & share this all-staff petition. Full text below.

  • Talk to your colleagues & head of school about this threat. Raise it as an agenda item at your next School/ department/ Divisional meeting.

Other news

  • All national strike information is here and there will be further updates imminently.

  • Kent University’s pay deduction policy for industrial action remains the same as previous years and will be updated on their webpages.

Petition text in full

Don’t cut degree programmes – defend jobs at Kent

Kent University senior management are planning to cut degree programmes in a medium term effort to sack staff. Every single division is under threat. If cuts go ahead, staff are at severe risk of being made compulsorily redundant.

There is no financial justification for cutting degree programmes – it will lose the university money.

Fewer students will come to Kent, which will hammer tuition fee income – this is exactly what happened with EG’s closure of the joint honours programme, which lost us significant income.

The University effectively broke even this year & met its recent “savings” targets.

The institution is profitable and financially secure, spending:

  • over £13.5 million on Kent Vision (which doesn’t even work!)

  • £4 million on tennis courts

  • £2 million a year on 12 members of the executive group

Sign the petition here

Strike Dates Announced 👇

National UCU Strikes

  • National UCU has called three national strike days over USS pensions and pay on: Thursday 24th November; Friday 25th November and Wednesday 30th November.

  • Action short of a strike begins from Wednesday 23rd November.

  • There will be financial support from UCU for pay deductions resulting from industrial action.

  • All information about the strikes is here.

  • A schedule of strike and picket events at Kent will be circulated in due course.

  • See attached for a presentation that can be shown to students.

Local Kent UCU update

  • Because you voted to ballot for LOCAL industrial action if necessary, EG offered a ‘commitment to all Arts and Humanities staff that there will be no compulsory redundancies as a result of the current review.’ This is a big win considering what is going on elsewhere in the sector, especially at Birkbeck.

  • The local Kent UCU negotiators you elected continue to attend many hours of negotiation meetings.

  • However, due to significant recruitment, retention and Kent Vision issues in some cases, negotiations will continue to be challenging.

  • It is therefore vital that you engage with all Kent UCU activity, so the branch can continue to mitigate the Arts & Humanities Review as much as possible. The review has significant implications for conditions for all staff at Kent.

What you need to do now

  • Reply to this email to help organise national strike pickets & events

  • Attend our in-person Meeting:

“Why join UCU? Protecting your security, pay and conditions at Kent”

16:15—17:30, Wednesday November 9th

Grimond Lecture Theatre 3 (GLT3)

No booking required

Join your local University & College Union branch for a glass of wine and a meet-and-greet immediately after the virtual induction session for new staff. In this informal wine reception we’ll be explaining the benefits of UCU membership, the protections you will receive and telling you about our successful recent campaigns to protect your job security and negotiate improvements in your pay and conditions. All are welcome and there is no need to book—feel free to pop in for fifteen minutes for a glass of wine to meet us and your new colleagues!”

Other news

  • Note that Kent UCU did not vote for senior management’s newly imposed policy whereby “Academic promotions process for 2022/23 will proceed, but any salary increases will not take effect for a period of 12 months for staff in the Division of Arts and Humanities”.

  • On another note, we had a very high proportion of members train to be caseworkers – if you want to join them, reply to this email.

NATIONAL UCU wins ballot over pensions, pay and conditions 

  • NATIONALLY UCU have voted with 57.8% turnout in the NATIONAL industrial action ballot over pay, precarity and inequalities. The ‘Yes’ vote was 81.1%.

  • NATIONALLY UCU have voted with 60.2% turnout in the NATIONAL industrial action ballot over USS pensions. The ‘Yes’ vote was 84.9%.

  • This was an aggregated ballot, meaning every single eligible institution can take industrial action, giving us far more leverage. As Jo Grady just said in the live announcement, this will be the first time that all universities will be able to strike together. 

What you need to do now

  • You have been sent a unique link by ‘yoursay@ucu.org.uk’ to a survey about the strategy your union should pursue.

LOCAL Negotiations Update – Important

Important Progress – LOCAL Negotiations are Continuing

 

 

  • This represents good progress. Negotiations are continuing between UCU and senior management over the issues members are concerned about. The UCU committee have suggested a four week pause to the LOCAL dispute and ballot processes to allow time to make further progress in negotiations.

 

  • We are pursuing commitments around fractionalisation for hourly paid lecturers, improvements to WAM and workload and the option to restart joint-honours programmes (among other issues).

 

  • The committee will keep you informed with further substantive updates about LOCAL issues soon. 

 

What you need to do now

  • Use the anonymous form in your email if you have information that could inform UCU negotiation over A&H

 

  • Attend our in-person Meeting:

 

“Why join UCU? Protecting your security, pay and conditions at Kent”

  • 16:15—17:30, Wednesday November 9th
  • Grimond Lecture Theatre 3 (GLT3)
  • No booking required

 

Join your local University & College Union branch for a glass of wine and a meet-and-greet immediately after the virtual induction session for new staff. In this informal wine reception we’ll be explaining the benefits of UCU membership, the protections you will receive immediately upon joining, and telling you about our successful recent campaigns to protect your job security and negotiate improvements in your pay and conditions. All are welcome and there is no need to book—feel free to pop in for fifteen minutes for a glass of wine to meet us and your new colleagues!”

 

Additional Opportunities

 

  • Get training to become a UCU caseworker

Thurs 3rd Nov 1-4pm. 

Once you have completed such a training, by convention you can represent members of the branch in casework. You will continue to be supported by existing caseworkers.

Zoom link in email.

Kent UCU votes to ballot

Kent UCU votes to ballot

 

  • Today you passed a motion to launch an industrial action ballot over job security & other issues at Kent, with 98% voting in favour.

 

  • This was the highest ever proportional meeting turnout in the history of your branch.

 

  • Leading organisers from the strongest UCU branches in the country – Sussex and Liverpool – passionately endorsed your local strategy, pledging further support for your campaign. You also passed a motion in solidarity with Iranians.

 

  • Your elected committee are negotiating with senior management right now and they are immeasurably strengthened by your motion to ballot. Any potential industrial action would be subject to a further democratic vote by you and you can read our website for background on all of these issues.

 

What you need to do now: 

 

  • Attend the meeting for members in A&H 

For both professional services & academic staff

See your email registered with UCU for the zoom link

Monday 1pm (17th Oct)

 

Even half an hour of your time could make the difference

Kent UCU Financial Counternarrative

Kent University Executive Group (EG) have increased central contribution costs from Divisions and are threatening jobs in Arts and Humanities to pay off outstanding building debts and to fund £60 million of building projects in the next 5 years. 

 

From the University Financial Statements it is clear that EG’s priority is buildings, not staff. 

 

We are a University, not a real estate speculator. 

 

 

Current Financial Context

 

The University’s financial performance in 2020-21 was ‘ahead of expectations’: it was predicting a £10million running deficit, but in fact has made c.£2.6 million surplus. The University is ahead of its ‘cost-savings’ targets, and the total staff cost savings required by the banks have now been found. Staff cost savings were delivered one year ahead of schedule. 

 

The University is no longer running a deficit and is financially stable. 

 

The University has saved an ongoing £17.1 million on staff costs since 2019-20 with O4S and KVSS. This amounts to a reduction of 6.4% of FTE, or 186 staff who have left and not been replaced, added to 2.4% of FTE, or 72 staff who left in 2018-19. For the past year the University has struggled to replace staff. Meanwhile over £2 million pounds per year is paid to just 12 members of EG. 

 

Over the past 5 years, the University has spent £126.8 million on capital expenditure (buildings). 

 

The University has outstanding debt of over £66.5 million, which it has spent on various building projects over the past 10 years, but has net assets of £269.6 million. 

 

From Jan 2023 the University has agreed to restart payments of its large building debts. This debt repayment will be funded through Divisional tuition fee income. 

 

EG plan to spend another £59.2 million on capital expenditure over the next 5 years. This will not be financed through ‘further borrowing’ but instead funded through the University, principally through Divisional tuition fees. 

 

Despite debts and hundreds of staff leaving and not being replaced, the University wants to invest more in the next 5 years in buildings rather than staff. 

 

 

 

Central Contribution Costs

 

Each subject area and Division is now expected to contribute a percentage of their income towards central University costs. This percentage target is different for each Division, with LSSJ having a high target of 55%, while Natural Sciences have a much lower target of 48%. Overall, Kent has a much higher percentage central contribution target than other Universities. One member summarises:

 

50%+ contribution targets demanded now of individual schools is, in my understanding, to pay for the debt accrued previously and loans. Obviously, this percentage will go up with interests going up because of inflation. We need to reject the principle that debts accrued by others have to be paid by us. 

 

Cross-Divisional Subsidy

 

As a way for the University to engineer reasons to target specific subject areas, each area and Division is now being tasked with being financially autonomous, and giving a high percentage of its income towards central costs. 

 

Such a financial model is totally erroneous within a University context, where we are an ecosystem which supports and funds each other across many years. For example, the Sibson Building costs millions to build, and that debt will be repaid by Divisions across the University. Now that the percentage contribution costs have been increased year on year, the Division of Arts & Humanities is being targeted. 

 

 

Analysis

 

Given the large amount of debt that the University has accrued paying for large-scale building projects, failing IT systems (Kent Vision) and investing in expensive projects like the Medical School, Divisions and Schools are now being tasked with footing the bill. 

 

As a UCU member points out: ‘It’s ridiculous that Divisions are being asked to pay for these buildings for which they see no benefit. Our students need teaching expertise and administration, not shiny buildings.’

 

Instead of taking on further debt, the £59.2 million planned spend on the next 5 years of building projects will need to be funded through the University, principally through tuition fee income. 

 

Therefore, the University has increased its central percentage contribution costs from each subject area in order to pay off past debts and fund these future building costs. We are a University, not a real estate speculator. 

 

We are one University and we value all staff. Brains, not buildings, are what makes the University of Kent.

We need to think about the future of the University and take expertise, knowledge and learning back to the core of what we do. That’s the only recruitment strategy that will secure our future, not lavish buildings. 

*All information presented here is taken from the University of Kent Financial Statements 2020-21, available publicly here: https://www.kent.ac.uk/finance/about/accounts.html

UUK Consultation on USS Governance Change

UUK have consulted Universities about a proposed review of USS’ governance structures, although its proposed terms are highly UUK-centric. We discussed these at a USS sub-JSNCC earlier in the week, where management asked Unions (although I was the only Union member there) to feed back. Documents can be found here: USS-subJSNCC 2022_8 Minutes 5 April 22 FINAL.pdf and USS-subJSNCC 2022_9 Governance review of USS – UUK consultation on the planned approach – July 2022.pdf

The points made during the meeting summarised as follows:

  • Must be an equal partnership between UUK and UCU in the leading of this review. Concern with an independent chair would be that they may “side” with UUK;
  • Need to review the process for the appointment and accountability of trustees; in particular how the independent directors are appointed and how members can hold directors to account on their performance. Note that the Pensions Act requires 1/3 of DB Trustees to be member-nominated.
  • Suggestion to replace stage 1 of the review with a commissioning of a separate report – this will enable stage 2 to proceed more quickly.
  • Should there be a separate “lessons learned” on what has gone wrong with USS?
  • Status of the JEP – Question whether there is an obligation on the Trustees to follow these recommendations (we discussed this and unlikely but might be worth noting).

We decided that I would provided written suggestions to the Uni’s response, following consultation with UCU pensions reps, in addition to those in the meeting. I consulted reps. and just sent the following email:

— 
Dear Gordon,

Thanks for the chase. A few additions for you to consider in response, sourced from discussions amongst national UCU pensions reps, so they will broadly represent the UCU national position.

  • Following our discussion of independent governance expert or no, the feeling is that the suggestion to get external governance experts involved is sensible. This is a really technical area of law, and regulation, and any proposals for reform are more likely to be credible if they’re produced by professionals. There is still a concern that independent experts might side with UUK’s stated position regarding pension plans, however this ought to be controlled for by joint UUK/UCU appointment of the reviewers/chair.
  • The idea of a ‘lessons learned’ stage is good, though this could be published after the publication of the initial report so as not to obstruct the necessary changes suggested in it.

 

2. Are there aspects of the review which need to be included, or removed, or further emphasised?

  • The current purpose of USS and objects of the company that acts as Trustee (USS Limited – USSL), are good, essentially – act as trustee for the benefit of relevant university staff. These should not be changed and probably should be out of scope for review. 
  • The appointment and removal of USSL directors is critical. The review should consider whether the independent directors should be member elected, or whether the independent directors should be replaced with UCU/UUK appointed directors (note RPS has 50:50 union employer appointed directors). 
  • The review should consider UUK’s role in USS governance. UUK is all HE in the UK, whereas USS is a subset. It’s also not entirely clear how the responses of institutions get translated into UUK formal responses. 
  • The review should include accountability and oversight of USSIM.

 

6. Do you believe there are weaknesses in USS governance, and if you do which do you believe are the problem areas, and why?

  • The decision to remove UUK and UCU’s right to recall their directors in 2018 should be revisited, as this weakened governance. 
  • Currently, the only people who have rights as members of USSL are the directors who run the scheme. The review should consider whether membership of USSL should be broadened to include ordinary scheme members and employers, or whether the scheme rules should be amended to give ordinary scheme members or employers the same rights as members of USSL. 
  • The directors are currently not representative of the scheme membership in terms of gender, age, or ethnicity. Directors from the financial industry are wildly overrepresented, this should be improved.
  • A number of directors have conflicts of interests as VCs, this is akin to having CEOs on the board of a pension scheme, which is generally considered to be unwise.

 

7. What would ‘better’ look like to you in terms of USS governance (please be as specific as possible)?

  • Consideration should be given to allowing ordinary members to elect the independent directors or replacing most or all of the independent directors with member and employer-nominated directors. 
  • Membership of USSL be expanded to include ordinary members and employers 
  • Restoring the right to recall directors. 
  • Splitting the DB/DC schemes into two entirely separate organisations, with separate governance structures.
  • A transparent and accountable valuation process, based on clear and credible evidence.

Thanks again for your engagement with this: management’s consideration of UCU’s position locally is much appreciated and we would be in a much better position if UUK did so with the UCU nationally.

— 

I imagine this will be the last thing I do for the branch in terms of USS. I strongly encourage whoever takes on the role of unofficial pensions rep. to push firmly and constructively at management: they have taken on board a large number of suggestions to their messaging with UUK as a result of discussions over the last two years, demonstrating that we can have impact over Kent’s voice in UUK. As Cox is now on the UUK board, I think this will be only more significant from now on.

Best wishes,

Chris

USS Comparative Decrease Graph

Jackie Grant, a UCU pension rep. at Sussex, prepared the following graph, which comparatively outlines how pensions are likely to depreciate given the recent cuts pushed through at JNC. The graph highlights just how poor our pensions now prepare us for living in our old age, and how urgent changes to USS governance and valuation policy are.

Graph showing comparative USS pension decrease

USS: 0% contribution increases needed to service deficit!

I have just sent the following letter to Martin Atkinson and Jane Higham in the hope that we can push back against the continuing farce that is the #USSmess.

Chris

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