The Principal of the College, Ed Byrne, has publicly stated his views on the lecturer strike, and joined over 17 other vice chancellors in calling on UCU and UUK to negotiate.
When asked by Roar whether he supported his striking lecturers, Ed Byrne stated, “No, I don’t support staff going on strike, I’m not on strike myself, but I do understand the depth of the issue which has promoted the strike.”
He added, “I haven’t gone on strike when issues have arisen during my career, because of how I feel about my obligations to the people who I teach. That’s a personal view, and I totally respect those who made the decision.”
Members of the union take an opposing stance to the Principal’s comment. Alice Evans, a lecturer in International Development at King’s, has said, “I do not want to deprive my students of teaching, but if we don’t cause disruption, our universities won’t listen.”
The strike centres around a change in staff pensions, which the union says could leave the average lecturer £10,000 worse off per year in retirement. With a defined benefit scheme, academics will receive a guaranteed income in retirement. Universities UK want to move to a defined contribution scheme to cut costs, which makes pensions subject to changes in the stock market.
Speaking of the criticism garnered for not speaking out more publicly about the strike, Mr. Byrne told Roar, “I absolutely want the parties to come together and negotiate a solution…I spoke of the need for renegotiations on the picket lines on Monday to the staff, who are the main people affected by this, and also in the memo that went out to all staff.”
He also expressed some doubts about the current pension scheme, saying “I want our staff have the very best pension scheme they can afford, but defined benefit schemes have been running into difficulty everywhere.”
Mr Byrne added, “We should look at a wider range of options, and I believe this will involve some movement from both UCU and UUK, both of whom I greatly respect.”
In response to student demands for refunds, Mr. Byrne stated that he will “completely ring-fence and salary savings from the strike action for student benefit”. He noted that the specifics of how a student can apply for compensation were still under discussion, but that it will have to be done on a case by case basis. It still, however, remains unclear whether students are guaranteed their money back. With regard to assessments, Mr. Byrne said that students would not be marked more leniently, but that King’s will “follow other universities, and make sure that people are not examined on material they haven’t been taught.”
Negotiations that took place between UCU and UUK were described as ‘positive’. However, as the strikes enter their second week at King’s, and third week across the country, talks are ongoing and UCU have refused UUK’s request to halt the strike, until the issue is resolved.
Photo Credit: Jared Phanco