Please VOTE today!

Dear University of Kent UCU members,

 Please VOTE today! As well as the General Election though, please do vote in the UCU USS re-ballot (you don’t need to be in USS to vote).

 You should have received a new ‘pension’ ballot

  • Following our historic strike action over pay, workload, casualisation and equalities in the last few weeks, University of Kent UCU is reballoting members to defend our pensions in the USS Scheme. More info here.
  • Anti-trade union law means we must reach 50% turnout to take action.

The pensions dispute is vital

  • The employers originally wanted to end guaranteed pension benefits.
  • They said your final pension should depend on how your ‘investments’ perform and not on your contributions.
  • We defeated that proposal
  • They now want you to pay more for your existing pension.
  • The pensions ballot explicitly permits us to undertake a marking boycott as a part of action short of strike.

The pensions issue affects everyone

  • Winning the pensions reballot will strengthen UCU’s hand
  • Decent pensions are essential to the long term viability of the sector for staff and students.

You can make the difference

  • Talk to your colleagues – Update your email auto-reply – Tweet @UoK_UCU

Vote YES to strike over pensions –  Vote YES to action short of a strike

Re Ballot on USS

As we’re in the process of reballotting on pensions, we thought this might be of interest to members. It’s a short Twitter thread from a colleague at Sheffield who is one of the national UCU negotiators, discussing a document that USS has just released concerning the 2020 valuation.

https://twitter.com/sam_marsh101/status/1202241550593482752

Judging by his analysis here, it seems that USS intends to ignore the second report of the JEP, and not bother to take into account the views of either UUK or UCU.

This is a very good reason to vote “YES” to protect your pensions, it seems USS has forgotten it is supposed to be providing a service to its stakeholders (and we include UUK here) and is only concerned to provide a service to its own EG. We urge members to vote “YES” and to write to the VC and urge her to use her office to demand UUK protest publicly about this abuse of USS’s position.

Philip, Sian, Owen and Mark

 

 

 

Strike Memories

Some Hightlights of the recent action, in no particular order.

Teach ins:

  1. UK higher education and the 2019 General Election:
    1. UK Higher Education and General Election 2019 – updated – PowerPoint and also see this blog:
      1. https://legalacstrikeagain.blogspot.com

Photos and other media:

  1. From Psychology (on Facebook)

 

Bulletin from the Canterbury picket (4*PEF)

Bulletin from the picket: we had a great day yesterday, we were a bit cold but were warmed up by the sun and a flash mob Zumba in front of the registry at 11am!!

It was a day dedicated to PS staff and we heard sad testimonies of people doing the work of 7 in a team of 3; of staff going through redevolpment, and re-assessment continously for the last 3 years; of half of SLAS staff on fixed term contract; lack of promotion opportunities; and obviously the impact of Ofs… it is time to unite to fight poor leadership from EG.

Today is a student day with usual picketing from 8-10.30am, rally at the registry at 11am and from 1-3 a teach-in on tuition fees in DLT1 aimed at students & staff and led by Kate. Please invite your students.

Tomorrow is the last day of the current strike, and what a day it will be:

11:00-13:00 UK higher education and general election 2019 (Woolf Lecture  Theatre + Templeman Lecture Theatre) KLS

CONFIRMED!!! Rosie Duffield will speak at this event about the future of Higher Education. Spread the word – Woolf LT, 11-12.

Along with our 4* performance in the PEF (Picketing Excellence Framework) this event will help maintain Kent UCU’s importance across the sector.

1-4pm: Student Rally: Darwin College

2-3pm: Precarity at Work: A KLS x Precarious@KentUni teach in Venue TBC

There is power in a Union – To Kent Professional Service colleagues

The current UCU strike affects many colleagues working in Higher Education (HE). Often labelled by the media as a ‘lecturers’ strike’ it reinforces the perception that this round of industrial action is only about hardships faced by teaching staff and by inference, that Professional Services (PS) staff (often referred to as ‘support’ staff) are less skilled, less valuable, less visible. However, we are professionals (albeit in a poorly defined ‘profession’) and we play critical and central roles in HE.

The restructure at Kent has been challenging for Professional Services teams. Colleagues have left Kent and not been replaced. Knowledge and expertise spanning many years has haemorrhaged from the institution. Remaining colleagues or new temporary colleagues on precarious contracts have been left to plug the gaps and are working over and above what should normally be expected – they are teetering on the verge of exhaustion, burnout and breakdown. This is taking its toll on colleagues, many of whom are at breaking point. The odd yoga hour or Wellbeing Day doesn’t cut it!

Half recovered from illness, frantic colleagues return to work in haste to tackle overflowing inboxes and multiple clashing urgent deadlines (and then email colleagues who are equally overworked). Professional Services staff are under increasing pressure to deliver, to impact, to ‘perform’. In challenging times, we’re going above and beyond through fear of job losses and redundancy ‘incentives’.

The Higher Education sector is in an ongoing crisis and too many university workers have had enough of their working conditions. Yet, there is a very poor understanding of these conditions within universities, in broader society and in the media. People often don’t know what academics or researchers or postgraduates or Professional Services colleagues actually do every day. Without a properly valued workforce, it proves challenging to be able to work to the best of your abilities, especially if you don’t know whether you will have a job in six months’ time or be able to pay your rent or mortgage.

UCU members felt angered in 2018 when their pensions were under attack and I found myself standing on a picket line for the very first time in my life. Now once again, whilst universities are charging students record high fees, staff have reached breaking point over a number of issues, including workloads, precarity, real-terms cuts in pay, a 15% gender pay gap and further changes to pensions for staff.

Nobody wants to be on strike. Picketing is exhausting and the weather is often against us. Yet

it’s also uplifting – the camaraderie is second to none. Thousands of university staff nationally are united and gaining a deeper understanding of our real power and political choices at the forthcoming general election.

Professional Services staff must stand together. No longer part of the furniture, we are a vital cog in the wheel, invariably expected to deal instantly with whatever walks through the door or drops into the Inbox. When students have problems with anything, we are often the first they turn to.

This is our strike too. Our pay, our equality issues, our workload and our pensions. No longer anonymous or invisible, we are the University and we are the Union too!

As Billy Bragg sang:

‘There is power in a factory, power in the land

Power in the hands of a worker

But it all amounts to nothing if together we don’t stand

There is power in a union.’

Join us!

Legal Academics Strike Again new blog

Dear All

One our members from the Law School, Prof Emily Grabham, and  former KLS colleague now at Birmingham, Dr Mairead Enright, have developed a blog designed to explore/debunk legal issues arising out of the strike and ASOS. It’s not supposed to compete with UCU guidance but more to put issues into wider context

Do feel free to read the blog here – and to contribute to it if you would like

https://legalacstrikeagain.blogspot.com/

Bests

Sian and Mark branch officers and Sophie Rep from KLS

Action Update

Dear All,

Thanks to everyone who came out again today for a great day of picketing!

Just a quick update to let everyone know.

1)      Yesterday (Tue 26 Nov) there was a meeting of Council, the governing body of the university with various external people who sit on it. We picketed the venue – Darwin – and also, at the suggestion of members, prepared a counter-agenda for discussion. This counter-agenda included items such as excessive management pay, overspend on Kent Vision, concerns about staff stress and mental health, overspend on infrastructure at the expense of staff, etc. Students who were picketing with us handed out the counter-agenda to members of council as they entered the building, and we know from people on the inside that they did look at it and have to deal with it.

2)      As you may have seen, members are ferrying over to the Medway campus tomorrow to help our striking colleagues there. For those colleagues staying on the Canterbury campus, pickets will proceed as normal with a rally late morning. Full details of all events tomorrow can be found on the calendar, here: https://docs.google.com/document/d/1my9AIpDNLU4ek0xt8UIZMz45ezgy7leFADTN2Mpafi4/edit

We look forward to seeing everyone tomorrow, either in Medway or Canterbury!

Sian, Philip, Owen and Mark

Branch Officers

Strike Go fund me

Details of School and Departmental Go Fund Me’s:

SSPSSR: https://www.gofundme.com/f/sspssr-ucustrikesback-strike-fund

KLS: https://gf.me/u/wwapmx

POLIR: https://www.gofundme.com/f/ucu-2019-strike-emergency-fund-polir?utm_source=customer&utm_medium=copy_link&utm_campaign=p_cf+share-flow-1

 

Please email details of your Fund to g.m.dean@kent.ac.uk for inclusion.

Strike Day One

Dear Members

It was amazing to see so many  wonderful colleagues on the pickets this morning. We had packed branch meeting, at which our updated hardship fund rules were unanimously approved. We will remind you of the details in a separate message later on. The meeting was followed by a lovely branch lunch in Rutherford Dining Hall. Catering staff looked us very well and the food was appreciated by all.

We were delighted to welcome a surprise visitor  at lunch – our local MP, Rosie Duffield. She addressed the assembled throng and offered her support to our cause. This was met by uproarious applause.

Do keep an eye on the strike Calendar: https://docs.google.com/document/d/1my9AIpDNLU4ek0xt8UIZMz45ezgy7leFADTN2Mpafi4/edit

What an incredible first day. We look forward to seeing all of you tomorrow!

Best

Sian, Owen, Phil and Mark

Branch Officers

Kent Union supports UCU

Dear University of Kent UCU members,

Members will be pleased to hear that the students union, Kent Union, has voted to support our strikes today.

https://kentunion.co.uk/news/article/kent-union-strike-stance

On behalf of all UCU members we thank Kent Union for this gesture of solidarity.

Philip, Mark, Owen, Sian