The following is a direct quote from an anonymised member of staff, who dedicated class time to sharing their perspective and answering student questions about the upcoming strikes (planned from December 1 to 3). They have supported their testimony being shared and would appreciate it being spread as far as possible.Â
Youâ€™re experiencing the increasingly high cost of studies. On balance, our working conditions â€” our salaries, our workloads, our pensionsâ€” are getting worse and worse. We have lost 16% of our salaries since 2008. To counter this, every year, there is no pay rise, or at best, a small pay rise that is always under inflation.Â
Universities are spending less and less on their staff. They treat them as a cost. This creates a huge amount of hardship.Â
I have a permanent job, unless I am fired or made redundant. But up to a third of staff arenâ€™t permanent, and are living year to year. In fact, they have 10-month contracts, and are not paid in the summer. They live without the ability to plan long-term as they do not know what their employment situation will look like in a year.
In the first year of teaching, we are stuck on an hourly rate, which is less than minimum wage. Some PhD students havenâ€™t been paid in two months. We are being exploited. Our workloads are getting worse, and we are being asked to do more and more with less and less. For instance, when a colleague leaves, they simply are not replaced, while we remain under immense pressure to carry on as normal with significantly reduced abilities.Â
The money from your rising fees is not being appropriately distributed towards your education. The top officials in the college are paid extremely well, while cleaners and temporary workers are hardly paid. Instead, money is being spent on security and fancy new buildings. Covid means we are being told to accept further cuts, including to our pensions. At this rate, some people will not be able to retire at all.Â
We are experiencing the same wellbeing issues as you. Thereâ€™s already a lack of mental health resources at the university for students, let alone for staff. I can tell you that there were days last year where I thought I was going to drop, and I just was thinking, â€œI canâ€™t do thisâ€.Â
The strike is also a movement against the significant gendered and racial pay gaps at KCL, which Iâ€™m sure youâ€™re aware of. I believe the statistics here are 17% for the gender pay gap and 20% for the ethnicity gap, and we are striking to close them.Â
I understand if you are upset about the decision to strike. I am upset too. If you have any questions or comments about the upcoming strike, I would very much like to give you space to express them.
QUESTION: What did you think of the KCLSU vote to not support the strikes?Â
I would have been surprised if you had voted yes, considering what youâ€™ve gone through. Third years, for example, would have had strikes in their first year, and then Covid and a year online. It is no wonder that you are opposed to further diversions, and I completely understand.Â Â
However, when students do support us, it makes the world of difference.Â
We are legally unable to strike for causes that donâ€™t affect us – we cannot strike for cleaners. It is illegal. Itâ€™s already so hard to show each other solidarity. So we must use our collective action where we can.Â
When we announce a strike, the university hits back by telling us that the students deserve teaching. And we agree. But we cannot teach in these conditions. There are not enough staff, not enough mental health services. I cannot let my commitment to my students be used against me.
Q: What happened with the strikes in 2020?Â
After the first strike, the Union and KCL came to an agreement that worked for everyone â€” and then KCL management went back on their word. Another strike was planned, but then Covid hit, and it was no longer safe to strike. The movement lost momentum.Â
Q: How can we help as students?Â
By framing the strikes as us denying you of an education, the University is using students as an excuse to mistreat us. It is effective if you actually write to the president of KCL, saying that it will not work if you pit us against our teachers. You don’t have to say you support the strike, but you know why they are striking, and it is on Kingâ€™s to make things better.Â
You could also email your Union, to ask them to support better admin and staff support from Kingâ€™s.Â
I am still very much hoping that the strike will not happen.Â
The staff member appeared distressed by the strikes and saw them as a last resort. They mentioned that they highly value time with their students, and was notably saddened and frustrated about their inability to devote time to them.Â
If youâ€™d like to support the strike, you can sign the NUS petition in solidarity with UCU demands here.
The petition at http://kclisdemocratic.net demands that the Council, the body with overarching control, is majority elected by staff and students.
The President of KCL can be reached at [email protected] .