KCL UCU have called off the strikes which were scheduled for next week. This comes after a dispute with the central union management of the UCU.
After yesterday announcing that the Marking and Assessment Boycott (MAB) at King’s College London was being lifted, the KCL branch of the University and College Union (KCL UCU) have today confirmed that the strike action which was scheduled for the first teaching week of the semester has been cancelled. In a statement to Roar, KCL UCU President Ewan McGaughey confirmed that members had voted against the week of strikes in a general meeting held at lunchtime today.
Following the settlement reached between the university and the union last week, KCL has gone from one of the most disrupted universities in the country to one of the least. The MAB had been called off at a national level by the wider UCU organisation at the start of September, but the KCL branch had independently voted to continue it, one of the few nation-wide to do so. A new settlement was then shortly reached with university management, which has resulted in the cancelation of the MAB.
Students of other universities can still expect to have classes disrupted by strike action between 25-29 September, as UCU members in branches which did not vote to cancel the strike are expected to not attend classes over that week. Later this evening, KCL UCU announced that strike action had been cancelled not because of the local resolution with King’s College London but because of a “failure of UCU leadership”. This public rebuke represents a significant fracture between the central union and its KCL branch, although the Tweet was later deleted after some KCL UCU members publicly commented their dissatisfaction with the message.
There has been some confusion over the local union’s position, after a message saying “Thank you UCU!” was followed twelve hours later by one which read “the GM [General Meeting of KCL UCU] expressed its unhappiness with the way industrial action had been (dis)organised by national UCU”. The motion passed by KCL UCU’s GM, as seen by Roar, urges the General Secretary of the UCU to “develop a credible industrial action strategy”, noting that there was a “pointlessness of taking action at the end of September” due to there being “no realistic prospect of further strike action until November or December” after the UCU delayed its member re-ballot until late September.
This doesn’t mean that industrial action at King’s College London is indefinitely over. The UK’s strike laws mean that unions are required to re-ballot members to extend their mandate for industrial action. UCU are currently re-balloting in the higher education sector for the third time, including members of KCL UCU. This means that if the campaign continues over national disputes and the UCU call further strikes, KCL UCU members will have to decide between either participating or deferring from the national line again.
It seems likely that further strike action will be participated in by the local union, after the branch tweeted that they “remain full committed to winning the Four Fights dispute” with university employers. While the local resolution included a raise in staff expense allowances, longer paid parental leave, childcare subsidies, a written framework for future negotiations and staff-elected representation on the KCL Council, this does not settle the underlying issue of staff salaries, working hours or contracts. After the UCU ballot closes in October, it will become clearer if we can expect further strike action or not, both nationwide and at KCL.
In a separate matter, KCL UCU President McGaughey has stepped down over the last few days from his role, telling Roar that he was “happily pass[ing] on the reins to others, after 3 years of work”. For updates on industrial action, follow Roar on social media.
Editor’s note: This article was amended on Monday 25 September following further clarification received from KCL UCU.