Kingston University Staff And Students On Strike

Protester with placard aloft. Courtesy of Eirill Dalan

Staff and students performed a one-day walkout at Kingston University yesterday against their below inflation pay rises.

Ongoing negotiations since May between union leaders and The Universities and Colleges Employers Association (UCEA) broke down last week, with the UCEA only offering a one per cent pay rise, 13 per cent cut in real terms. University staff have been on a pay freeze since 2008.

Dave Tinham, a Kingston University UCU officer, said: “We don’t want to affect students, we are proud of the job we do, that won’t happen if they don’t come to the negotiating table.”

Scepticism towards the strike and its impact was widespread with the strike happening during reading week rather than a teaching week.

From today union members will be implementing a policy of ‘work from contract’, working only the contractually specified hours, not going above and beyond the call of duty as they usually do. This is likely to affect a range of services, from out of hour’s emails to the turnaround of exam papers.

Union members accept that university management are unlikely to respond to the strike but they are expecting the knock on effect on students, leading to a nationwide negative reaction through student surveys.

Members are hoping that any damage to Kingston University’s reaction will lead to a management response of increased wages for lower paid members of staff. Since tuition fees rose in 2012, higher education is no longer in an age of austerity; members of staff believe there is no excuse for this finance to run through into their pay packets.

The strike by all lecturers and administrative workers was monumental, being the first one whereby all three unions are on strike together. Kingston is represented by Unison and the University and College Union (UCU), with Unite representing a number of other higher education establishments.

Dave Tinham said: “Unless management come back to the table and reward the work that we do, we will continue to put pressure on them.”

Picketing began just after 8am and continued throughout the morning with a rally consisting of over 40 protesters outside the Penrhyn Road campus main entrance from 10 am.  Activists were stationed across Kingston University’s campuses until just after noon, when they converged with national protests at Conway Hall, London.

Dave Tinham added: “Previously we could be seen as ignoring the needs of non-academic staff, but this is a joint union struggle, we couldn’t work without them including the cleaners.”

The strike was also addressing the current gender pay disparity nationwide in higher education.

Turnout at the unions’ ballot to go on strike was also extraordinarily low. For Unite it was 28%, of which 64% were in favour of action. For UCU, turnout sat at 35%, with 62% voting to strike, whilst Unison had a slim majority for action at 54%.

Dr Julian Wells, Kingston University’s UCU Chairman said: “It’s been great to see the support from fellow lecturers and students, it’s crucial that we draw attention to our dissatisfaction and luckily the rain has held off.”

The last time a union went on strike over wages was UCU back in 2006.

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