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Further UCU Strike Action Planned for February

UCU strike action
Photo by Nadya Oppenheim

According to union representatives, King’s College London is expected to see further University and College Union (UCU) strike action in the latter half of February.

UCU general secretary Jo Grady insisted that “employers can prevent this if they act now” in her official announcement of the strike dates on January 27, going on to state: “This action would not need to be called if university staff were not under such a sustained attack.

“From massive pension cuts to unbearable workloads, precarious employment and deeply entrenched inequalities, not to mention wages that keep falling further and further behind the cost of living, the sector is being turned into a deeply inhospitable place to build a career. Imagine what it would look like after another ten years of decline—and commit today to coming together with your students and acting to change it for the better.”

In an email from Professor Adam Fagan and Executive Director Darren Wallis, students were informed that industrial action will take place over three weeks at King’s College London:

  • Week One: February 14 – 18
  • Week Two: February 21 -22
  • Week Three: February 28 – March 2

Students have been informed that College spaces will stay open during the period of industrial action and that not all courses or classes will be impacted. University representatives encourage students to continue using facilities such as study spaces and libraries.

The strike action comes following previous UCU strikes in early December 2021, during which staff protested a cut to retirement benefits passed by Universities UK in August of that year, proposed as a way to avoid an increase to pension contribution rates proposed by the Universities Superannuation Scheme (USS).

In addition to striking, UCU members are currently carrying out action short of strike (ASOS), during which staff only work their contracted hours and duties, including not rescheduling classes and lectures cancelled due to strike action.

Students have been informed that teaching and learning activities will go ahead where possible, and that faculties will inform their students if there are any changes to their timetabled sessions. Staff members, however, are not legally required to inform the university if they intend to take industrial action.

Staff have previously shared their feelings and motivations for striking. One member stated that “there were days last year where I thought I was going to drop, and I just was thinking, ‘I can’t do this’”.

The first two rounds of strikes this term are aimed at the USS dispute, since they align with meetings with employers during which cuts to the pension scheme could be formalised. The latter dates will take aim at both the USS and the Four Fights disputes together.

Furthermore, March 2 will see joint action between students and staff, as the National Union of Students (NUS) has called for a one-day student strike. The action follows the NUS’ demands for a fully funded, accessible, lifelong, and democratic higher education system.

The UCU has disclosed that there might be a marking and assessment boycott, in addition to a potential round of re-ballots to extend the six-month industrial action mandate set to expire at the beginning of May.

The update states that another union many staff members are a part of, dubbed Unison, has been balloting their members in regards to pay issues. Their ballot, which closed January 28, may lead to further strike action conducted by Unison members. Professor Fagan and Darren Wallis add that students will receive further updates when information becomes available.

KCLSU are set to discuss a motion for full support for GTAs and other students that are staff, as well as UCU members on strike in their upcoming Members’ Meeting.

Roar has also reached out to the KCL branch of the UCU and the KCLSU for comment. We will continue to update you as the situation develops.

3/2/21 Update

The results of the Unison ballot have revealed an 88% vote in favour of strike action. The dates, however, are yet to be confirmed.

15/2/21 Update

KCL UNISON have announced that the dates of their strike action have been confirmed as March 2 and 3.

The KCL UCU branch president Ewan McGaughey also replied to Roar, commenting: “Yes, the strike action has been called nationally, because the university employers, including at KCL are still insisting on taking skyrocketing fees from students and yet cutting how much goes into your teaching – there’s been 20% real pay cuts since 2008, failure to end the gender and race pay gaps, and there’s systemic job insecurity. They also want to cut the pension by 35%, and the pension fund refuses to divest fossil fuels, based on a false assertion that there’s a “deficit”. There’s not – there’s a £7 billion surplus.

“At KCL the heart of the problem is that right of staff to vote was abolished in 2009, and so we want a majority elected Council, voted for by staff and students. Everyone can sign the petition here, it’s over 1400 people so far: We are calling for the London Weighting to go up because it’s been cut by 32% since 1992 […]

“No more poverty pay, no more suppression of democratic voice, no more systemic discrimination, no more mismanagement. KCL managers often appear to be worse than the picture nationally and have repeatedly refused to negotiate in good faith. It’s been a total management shutdown, while they take more and more in student fees and stuff them into unaccountable managers’ six figure pay packets. We’ve put many constructive proposals forward on every issue, and still hope for real engagement. But if KCL doesn’t resolve these issues, we’re also prepared to examine all our options for local action in addition to the national action. We need to change our university for the better, to ensure that people can do the jobs they love, and continue the pursuit of knowledge in a workplace built on dignity, equality and respect.”



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