Members of the University and College Union (UCU) at Kingston University went on strike on Monday and Tuesday to achieve better working conditions.
Lecturers have said that they are fighting on four fronts: unsafe workloads, shrinking pay, rising job insecurity, and pay inequality seen in ethnicity, disability and gender pay gaps.
Nicola Field, postgraduate representative for the university’s UCU, said: “We can see the terrible pressures that staff are under and the unbearable working conditions.
“They have unmanageable workloads and there are terrible discriminatory pay gaps against BAME, women and disabled staff.
“A huge number of university staff across the whole country are on insecure contracts, precarity is having an absolute crashing, destructive effect on the sector.”
Pickets gathered on Penrhyn Road campus on February 21 and 22, with more strikes scheduled between February 28 and March 2.
In negotiations with the University & Colleges Employers Association (UCEA), the UCU has demanded:
- An increase on the national pay scale of £2,500 and £10 per hour minimum wage
- Nationally agreed action to address excessive workloads and unpaid work, with 35 hours to be the standard weekly employment contract
- National, time-specific action to close the gender, ethnic and disability pay gaps
- A framework to eliminate precarious employment practices by universities with staff moved from hourly-paid to fractional contracts
Student support soars
Student support for the action has been on the rise. In a referendum held by the Kingston Student Union (SU), 82 per cent of students voted to support the UCU strike.
UCU members are hoping for even more engagement from students. Peter Hallward, professor of philosophy at Kingston University, said he believed that student support could make the difference.
He told the Kingston Courier: “Students have their own issues that are very closely related around things like tuition fees and student debt.
“The whole idea of education has been degraded into nothing more than job training. Students, like staff, have a real interest in trying to resist that and try to reclaim education.”
Regarding the strikes, a university spokesperson said: “Although we can’t yet determine the effect industrial action may have on teaching and our campuses, we have encouraged managers to work with their teams to consider the impact and how we can best support our students.
“The University will do everything it can to ensure disruption to teaching and other activities is kept to a minimum.
“We have an open dialogue with the Union of Kingston Students and listen to the views of our students on this and other issues concerning their education.”
Kingston UCU members also went on strike in December 2021, making this the second series of strikes of the academic year.