Our Action

Dear All

Again, welcome to new members. For those of you who have just joined, please do let us know if you need to be brought up to speed on the industrial dispute.

We are delighted to inform you, that as a result of our Branch actions, management have backed down from their attempt to insist that you inform them in advance of your strike action. We would like to repeat in very strenuous terms: you are under NO obligation to inform any manager that you intend to take strike action. Your only obligation is to inform management, AFTER.

We promised to address, issue by issue, the management approach to strike action, which can be found here: https://www.kent.ac.uk/human-resources/pensions/uss-industrial-action2018/index.html
In this email, we address management’s attitude to Graduate Teaching Assistants (GTAs) taking strike action. This is what they are saying:

Graduate Teaching Assistants (GTAs)

It is for schools to schedule the hours of Graduate Teaching Assistants (GTAs). Where a GTA strikes on a day that they were scheduled to work in accordance with the terms of their GTA contract then a deduction to pay will be made reflecting the hours due to be worked, but not worked. The number of hours scheduled but not worked will be deducted from the 96 hours the GTA contract stipulates will be worked in any one year. The deduction from pay will be based on a daily rate of 1/365th (pro-rata to the hours they were due to work).

GTAs who participate in ASOS and refuse to reschedule a lecture or class, or provide cover when asked to do so, will have a 3.5 hour deduction made from the 96 hours that the GTA contracts stipulates that they are due to work in any one year. This work will not be re-offered.

The GTA scholarship stipend will not be affected by these deductions.”

This is draconian. The University plans to take action against its own students – students who are surviving on tiny stipends, while they attempt to study for their PhDs, no doubt in preparation for life as an academic. This will only serve to demoralise our GTAs and act as a disincentive to aspiring academics. It is mean-spirited, short sighted and puts paid to any notion that they are looking out for their students.

We urge all members who are not themselves GTAs to email the VC and protest against this in the strongest possible terms – vicechancellor@kent.ac.ukDo remember that UCU published national USS industrial action FAQs at

You can find some of our previous messages on our local blog:
We also have a Twitter account:

Best, Sian, Owen and Mark
Branch Officers

Branch Update Activities

We know that members are keen to know what to do and where to go. We have been working very hard to get together a really imaginative programme of events – and this is ongoing. If you would like to run an event, please let us know and we will try to support you in organising one. Thank you to all those for their efforts in organising the following:

We will update you on venues of the events, nearer the time. The Canterbury ones will all take place on the main part of the campus.

This is changing daily. So please keep your eye on news from UCU-mem

Medway :

Thurs 22: pickets at Gillingham building 8-10am
Monday 26th: pickets at galvanising shop.


Daily: picket outside your schools and departments from 7.30 am till about 10 am. Please ask your rep for further details as these may change on a daily basis

Thurs 22nd Feb:
Rally outside Registry at 10 am

Fri 23rd Feb:
Rally outside Registry at 10 am

Mon 26th

Tues 27th Feb
(i) Craftivism workshop: 10-12,
(ii) Law School Teach-In event
(ii) Union organising workshop

Weds 28th Feb
English Teach-in 2-4 pm: Culture education and Society,

Mon 5th
Lecture on Match Girls Strike of 1888 – 12 noon

Tue 6th

Weds 7th March
Prof Stefan Collini lecture


Sian, Owen and Mark
UCU Branch Officers

Branch Update

We are building strength and momentum. Our determination is what will take us through.

We will keep you abreast of developments as soon as we are able. In the meantime, please use every opportunity to:
• Talk to as many hourly paid staff and graduate teaching assistants, and encourage them to join UCU (see links below)
• Talk to as many UCU members as possible, including hourly paid staff and graduate teaching assistants, to encourage them to strike
• Encourage everyone to email their heads of school/department, if they are told to report to them about your intentions. Politely tell them your union has informed you that are under no legal obligation to inform them of your intentions
• When speaking to students, encourage them to support the strike, and to write to the VC (see below)

GTAs and Hourly Paid Staff

We will be holding a meeting with lunch specifically for you on Wednesday 14th Feb from 12-2 in Wigoder Law Building, Worcester Robing Room. Branch Officers will be present to answer your questions.


Please use these links

To provide information to colleagues:

To join UCU: https://www.ucu.org.uk/join
FAQs: https://www.ucu.org.uk/uss-action-faqs
For general info about the action: https://www.ucu.org.uk/why-we-are-taking-action-over-USS

To provide information to students:

Strike-zine: https://thedisorderofthings.files.wordpress.com/2018/02/strike-zine.pdf
Details of why action: https://www.ucu.org.uk/why-we-are-taking-action-over-USS
Supportive student Petition to VC: https://www.change.org/p/vice-chancellor-karen-support-ukc-staff-with-their-strike?recruiter=426702522&utm_source=share_petition&utm_medium=facebook&utm_campaign=psf_combo_share_initial.undefined&utm_term=autopublish&utm_content=ex55%3Acontrol


Sian, Mark and Owen
Branch Officers

Branch Meeting

We are calling another Branch Meeting for Tuesday 13th Feb at 1 pm in the Wigoder Law Building, Moot Chamber. We will engage in further discussions concerning our industrial action strategy. In addition, we will be seeking to pass a motion concerning the establishment of a local hardship fund, in respect of which we need to be quorate. The motion is as follows:

“University of Kent UCU resolves to set up a local hardship fund.

University of Kent UCU will transfer £30,000 from its general funds to start the fund.

(b) Payments will only be made for losses of pay arising from the first 3 days of strike action in the 2018 USS industrial dispute, with a maximum payment of £50 per day of strike action. Further days of action are covered by the national fund.
(c) Applications to the fund must supply evidence of lost pay and explain how a payment will alleviate hardship. The application process will include a membership check and confirmation from the member that they will not receive more than the total loss from combined applications to UCU accredited funds.
(d) The branch will advertise a mechanism for members to donate to the hardship fund.
(e) Claims to the fund will be considered by a panel of three branch officers including the treasurer, Robert Jupe, and two of the following – Sian Lewis-Anthony (President), Owen Lyne (Secretary), Mark Dean (Deputy Secretary)
(f) All claims to the fund must be submitted within three months of the loss of pay concerned.
(g) Claims should be sent by internal mail (with copies of evidence, no original documents please) to Owen Lyne (SMSAS, Sibson Building) or by email (with electronic evidence attached, e.g. scanned documents) to O.D.Lyne@kent.ac.uk
(h) All claims will be acknowledged on receipt. This acknowledgement will state the date of the meeting at which the claim will be considered and the likely timescale for the result to be communicated.”

Please make it a priority to attend this meeting – solidarity for those who are financially vulnerable is absolutely vital.

Please do continue to consult the UCU FAQs on the strike action. The current iteration can be found here: https://www.ucu.org.uk/uss-action-faqs

University of Kent UCU update

Branch officers would like to welcome all the new members of the branch – 30 joining us in January alone – this blog is to update you all on some of our recent and upcoming activity.

  • Monday 22nd January – Industrial action ballot results released, strong YES vote for industrial action nationally and here at Kent
  • Tuesday 23rd January – Employers nationally, despite ballot result, force proposal through at USS to slash pension benefits
  • Tuesday 23rd January – Branch president Sian and branch deputy secretary Mark met with Kent Union sabbatical officers to discuss the USS dispute, explain our position and provide material to them to use in communications with students.
  • Wednesday 24th January – Sian and branch secretary Owen met with the Vice-Chancellor and the Director of Human Resources to discuss the dispute
  • Friday 26th January – Questions asked at University Court about USS dispute and further discussion between Owen and VC
  • Monday 29th January – Strikes dates formally announced and notified to the University
  • Tuesday 30th January – Branch officers meet to start local planning
    Wednesday 31st January – Branch officers meet representatives of campus GMB, Unison and Unite unions. Further planning meeting arranged for Fri 2nd Feb. Meeting open to all members announced for Mon 5th Feb in Canterbury and planning for meeting in Medway.
    Wednesday 31st January – National UCU publicises joint statement with NUS
  • Thursday 1st Feb – FAQs from national UCU expected very soon, after which local officers will advertise them and ask national UCU to update/clarify anything that members need further assistance on. We anticipate specific coverage of issues relating to staff on casualised contracts and hardship funds, and will certainly follow-up with local information on these, and many other, issues. UCU has produced a video for members to share with students.
  • Future events

    Monday 5th February – 12 noon until 1pm – open meeting in Moot Chamber, Wigoder Law Clinic

    Tuesday 6th February – Branch officers meeting regional UCU officials for further planning

    Wednesday 7th February – UCU Social, 12noon until 2pm, FREE LUNCH, Worcester Robing Room, Wigoder Law Clinic

    Saturday 10th February – UCU southeast regional meeting

    And much, much more to come!

    We do apologise if we will sometimes be slow to answer email at this time, but rest assured we are on the case,
    Best wishes,
    Owen, Mark and Sian

    Kent UCU Twitter link

    HOPE not hate

    On Wednesday 29th November, UCU at Kent were proud to host a workshop by HOPE not hate, led by Mr Owen Jones, their Head of Education. HOPE not hate is an advocacy group based in the United Kingdom that “campaigns to counter racism and fascism”, and to “combine first class research with community organising and grassroots actions to defeat hate groups at elections and to build community resilience against extremism.” Created in 2004 by Nick Lowles, the organization is backed by various politicians and celebrities and several trade unions.

    Following the Brexit vote, the number of hate crimes recorded by regional police forces in the UK rose by up to 100% and in the county of Kent, the figures were up by 60%. There has been a rise in the number of racially and religiously-motivated crimes reported to police, including assaults and arson. Community groups representing EU nationals in the UK have warned about the potential for an undercurrent of xenophobia to spread as talks with Brussels get underway regarding Brexit. The head of the Equality and Human Rights Commission, David Isaac, has also said he is ‘hugely concerned’ about a backlash against European citizens as the Governments EU withdrawal negotiations take place. The Government’s recent race audit has found huge gulfs in experience in sectors such as health, housing, criminal justice and education.

    During the workshop attended by approximately 40 members of staff and postgraduates at Kent, Owen recounted the historical roots behind HOPE not hate. As Head of Education, Owen regularly discusses the concept of hate and bigoted behaviour with students everyday across the country teaching them about day-to-day prejudice, discriminatory language, signs of radicalisation and discussing society’s shared values. Owen described the importance or realizing that banter is not just banter and racist jokes are not okay. Owen outlined concepts relating to power, prejudice, racism and hate. Through exploring case studies relating to the tragic murders of Lee Rigby and Jo Cox, the audience explored how such concepts of power and racism are triggered and subsequently reported. Using the Pyramid of Hate, Jones teaches how certain phrases reinforce stereotypes and normalize prejudice. Participants were encouraged to stop using discriminatory language but also to challenge their friends to do the same. The workshop led by Owen was truly informative, insightful and thought provoking.

    To find out more about HOPE not hate’s education work or to book Owen Jones or his team, email education@hopenothate.org.uk

    Challenging Workplace Bullying and Harassment week

    Next week 13th – 17th November is the UCU national Challenging Workplace Bullying and Harassment week. Very apt in light of recent news nationally and internationally.

    Locally, we are delighted to invite you to a talk by Carmel Sunley to be held in the Moot Chamber, Wigoder (Kent Law Clinic) Building on Canterbury campus at 13:00 on Wednesday 15th November.

    Carmel is a local solicitor who specialises in employment law and she will be talking about both the law relating to Harassment and Bullying in the workplace and suggesting what good practice in the workplace could look like. The talk is co-hosted by Kent Law Clinic and will be useful for Clinic Students as well as UCU colleagues and Reps.

    All are warmly invited.

    TUC Dying to Work Charter

    Our branch is delighted that as a result of our efforts, the University of Kent yesterday became the first university in the UK to commit itself to the TUC Dying to Work Charter. The Charter commits the University to “support, protect and enable” an employee with a diagnosis of terminal illness who chooses to remain in work, where it is reasonable to do so.

    These links will take you to the University’s statement here, UCU’s statement​ here and the the TUC’s twitter feed here


    This link will take you to the Charter and the University of Kent’s Memorandum of Understanding – here​


    Threat of further restrictions to workers’ access to use the law

    On Saturday I attended a meeting of Unison safety reps, where I’d been asked to speak about my experiences as a UCU rep fighting issues of workload, bullying and stress. One of the speakers was Phil Liptrot from Thompsons solicitors. He talked about the government’s plans to make it even harder for injured workers to claim for compensation. There is now a campaign underway, including a petition. The following text summarises Phil’s talk and gives a link to the petition, which needs many more signatures than it currently has. Please sign and circulate to others.


    David Hardman


    Another attack on access to justice for workers injured at work

    This would exclude most workers injured by work from making any claim for compensation to which they are entitled as they would have to pay their own legal costs.It would let negligent employers off the hook, and reduce and incentive on them to make their workplaces safer and healthier.

    Small Claims Limit – Phi Liptrot from Thompsons Solicitors spoke about the major campaign that has been launched to challenge the Government’s plan to increase the small claims limit.

    He said that the proposed change will prevent 80% of injured workers from instructing a lawyer to enable them to get compensation for workplace injuries and the consequence is that the employer will be able to make their workplaces even more dangerous.  At the moment there is a £1, 000 limit.  Phil explained that claims are in two parts: general damages which include pain and suffering and special damages which include financial loss like loss of wages etc.

    At the moment if the general damages  are greater than £1,000 then the individual is able to claim their  lawyer fees back from the other side.  PL also reported that 99% of cases are greater than £1, 000.  The Government proposal is to increase the limit to £5,000.  80% of all cases are less than £5,000 and will result in individuals not getting any compensation when they are injured by their job.  Even where the total claim would be much greater than £5,000 because of things like loss of wages, they still won’t be able to claim because their general damages are  below the £5,000 threshold.  General damages are determined from  a prescribed list of financial compensation for a particular condition/injury.  Individuals will have to make a decision to pay up front (if they can afford to) and then pay the lawyer out of the total if they are successful.  It means that some of these ‘fat cat’ insurers will get even ‘fatter’ at the expense of worker’s health and safety.  It was also reported that some asbestosis claims may fall into this category.

    Please circulate this information and communicate it widely amongst trade union contacts.

    Please encourage as many people as possible to

    • sign the online petition at petition.parliament.uk/petitions/173099  :  100,000 signatures are needed on the petition, to initiate a debate in the House of Commons, so it was agreed to support this. There are only about 16,000 signatures. There are 6 million TU Members……mmm
    • Write to MPs, urging them to oppose the changes.
    • follow @FeedingFatCats on twitter and to find out more at www.feedingfatcats.co.uk.

    Tackling problems at work

    As personal caseworkers for the UCU branch, we are often told by members that they are reluctant to use the formal grievance procedure.

    UCU officers have worked with Human Resources (HR) on a guide to the informal options staff have when there’s a problem at work.   This has now been added as a staff guide to the Dignity at Work policy. Please have a look at the specific staff guide.

    We commend this document to members and suggest you consult it if you find yourself in difficulties. It also makes suggestions of what colleagues might like to do if you witness inappropriate behaviour that is not directed at you.

    We hope members find it useful and would welcome any suggestions for improving it.