On 18 July 2017 the KU UCU branch committee sent this open letter to the Vice-Chancellor Steven Spier:
Dear Steven Spier,
UCU members appreciate that in most cases in Phase 1 of Plan 2020 the university was able to avoid compulsory redundancies. However, we were disappointed that staff in Politics were subjected to the MOR process that forced them to apply and compete for their existing job. We also regret that, despite strong and rationale protests, senior management and HR have chosen not to slow down the ill thought through amalgation of film courses in FASS and FADA. Further we are concerned that KU is advertising for a Senior Lecturer, Year Leader Film: job ref 2942, while current staff are being retired or leaving under the VEP and VS schemes.
Going forward we reiterate our requests to make this cost cutting exercise less divisive and demoralising for staff by offering the following options to avoid the MOR process:
- VS and VER to all academic staff
- Planned moves from full time to part time
- Phased retirement to all staff over 55
- Redeployment options to all staff
We ask that such more humane approaches are adopted as we feel that this will not only be good for staff morale but for the wider reputation of Kingston University within the academic community. Despite having made this request at successive recent JNCC discussions, to date none of these more flexible strategies are being offered.
We note the disparity between staff levels; while Senior Managers have lost jobs through natural wastage or generous resignation packages, lecturers who are not responsible for damaging decisions in recent years , have been subjected to job loss through selective offers of VS/VER or MOR.
Nick Freestone KU UCU branch chair
Valerie Coultas KU UCU branch vice-chair
Rosie McNiece KU UCU branch secretary
KU UCU Branch Committee
Here are the minutes of the last Branch Meeting
Here are relevant documents from the recent UCU TEF day on 17th March.
Jackie Smart’s guide to the TEF: https://docs.google.com/viewer?a=v&pid=sites&srcid=ZGVmYXVsdGRvbWFpbnxtaWtlc2VhcmJ5c3dlYnNpdGV8Z3g6NGJkZTJhNjBiOWUwYjFjMg
Valerie Coultas’ paper on Building Communities of Practice in Teaching and Learnuing https://docs.google.com/viewer?a=v&pid=sites&srcid=ZGVmYXVsdGRvbWFpbnxtaWtlc2VhcmJ5c3dlYnNpdGV8Z3g6NzJjOTVlODY2MDdjNDk2Mw
On February 10th, Kingston UCU marked the Day of Action against Workplace Racism with a series of events intended to kick off an ongoing discussion about experiences of racism and discrimination within the Kingston University community, and to explore what kinds of things we might do as a union to support colleagues and students who face these issues. The events were organized by the Kingston UCU Equalities Working Group, which hopes to shape and expand its work in response to the series of invigorating discussions and connections made that day, and to do so by working in tandem with the Union of Kingston Students, UNISON, students and student societies, university units and services concerned with these issues.
A first panel on Prevent was meant to provide inputs to help KU staff and students answer the question, “What does Prevent Mean for Us?” A part of the government’s overall counter-terrorism policy, the Prevent strategy is an effort to encourage public sector service providers (since September 2015, including university teaching and non-teaching staff) to monitor student behaviour for signs of growing radicalisation. This panel was only the latest in a series of campus discussions attempting to come to terms with what this controversial policy implies for the KU community.
The panel began with two films which exposed the growing experience of Islamophobia faced by Kingston students. Following the screenings, student film maker Jamie Wheeler-Roberts explained that she felt that the best way to expose the racism and fear faced by fellow students was to let them tell their stories in film. Bill Bolloten (a former teacher, educational consultant and member of the #EducationNotSurveillance network), argued that the implementation of Prevent at the primary and secondary school levels has been poorly thought through, and risks inflicting long-term damage on those Muslim students (as young as 4 years in age) who have been reported for expressing “extremist ideas” on the flimsiest and often misplaced grounds. He suggested that the best way to combat this risk to community relations is to open a broad space for dialogue on the policy. Politics lecturer Jessie Blackbourn, a specialist in counter-terrorism law and human rights, provided a brief overview of the legal grounds of Prevent, noting the gap between the government’s stated intentions and the vague and often unproven assertions on which the policy is based, all of which will make its implementation either unworkable or counter-productive. Amanda Latimer, a member of the Equalities WG, provided an open invitation for teaching staff to get involved in coming up with an educator’s response to Prevent that works for the Kingston community, keeping in mind the risk to the relationship of trust between a teacher and student that successful learning & teaching depends upon. The discussion that followed drew together ideas and concerns from students from Kingston ISOC and Politics Society, lecturers and parents, and reinforced the need for different parts of the university to work together on this issue.
In the following session, Winsome Pinnock (UCU Equalities Officer and Head of the Creative Writing department) lead a screening and discussion of the new film, Witness: An Oral History Project, produced by the UCU Black Members Standing Committee. The film chronicles the experiences of workplace racism and discrimination faced by Black members of colleges and universities. It placed disturbing individual testimonies of everyday and institutional racism against the picture of systemic discrimination that was recently revealed in a survey of 631 Black union members working in the FE and HE sector. The study revealed that a staggering 71% of Black members of staff have reported being subject to bullying and harassment from managers, and that 90% have faced barriers to promotion in colleges and universities.
These stories and findings resonated with staff in attendance, who shared stories of facing a racial glass ceiling to promotion and progression, and of feeling unsupported in their training as junior academics to enter the competitive world of academic career development due to their racial background. The discussion emphasized the importance of bringing Black staff together in the workplace to fight the isolation that comes with experiences of racism; the importance of mentoring opportunities to support the professional development of BME staff members; and finally, the responsibility of trade unions to directly address racism within the workplace and union branches themselves.
The day finished with the Big Black Read: an intimate group reading of the award-winning prose poem Citizen: An American Lyric, by Claudia Rankine, coordinated by Winsome and Dave Tinham, both of the Equalities WG. The reading drew in a large, diverse crowd of people from different corners of the university, returning students, and acclaimed actor Burt Caesar, a veteran actor and teacher whose work includes performances with the Royal Shakespeare Company as well as in feature films like Skyfall. Following naturally from the previous session, the poem was read by a succession of readers while images from its text were screened in the background, allowing each to explore the subtle and almost inexpressible, to starker ruptures of racism that mark the everyday of an African-American woman living in Obama’s “post-racial America.”
The UCU Equalities Working Group is currently working to address the BME attainment gap and issues faced by BME staff with both Kingston staff and students, as well as the Prevent strategy, and is headed by Winsome Pinnock, Kingston UCU Equalities Officer. If you have experienced racism or other forms of discrimination in the workplace, or would like to get involved with the Equalities Working Group to address these and other equalities issues in the future, please email Winsome (email@example.com), Dave Tinham (firstname.lastname@example.org) or Amanda Latimer (email@example.com).
If you are a BME member of staff at Kingston and would be interested to join a newly forming Kingston BME staff network, then please email Winsome at firstname.lastname@example.org
Resources mentioned above:
UCU Day of Action Against Workplace Racism homepage (also includes links to UCU’s work on a range of Equalities issues)
Are You Islamophobic? (3:21, directed by Ajoke Tairou)
What does it mean to be Muslim in London? (3:59, directed by Jaime Wheeler-Roberts)
Education Not Surveillance. Bill Bolloten, 22 October 2015, Institute of Race Relations Blog.
Stop, look, listen: the University’s Role in Counterterrorism. Jessie Blackbourn and others, 14 January 2016, Times Higher Education Supplement.
Witness: an Oral History Project (31:57, UCU Black Members Standing Committee).
Report: The Experiences of Black and Minority Ethnic Staff in Further and Higher Education. February 2016, UCU.
Audio clip: From Citizen: An American Lyric, by Claudia Rankine. March 2014, Poetry Foundation.
Review: Citizen: An American Lyric by Claudia Rankine review – the ugly truth about racism. Guardian, 30 August 2015.
You are in the dark, in the car, watching the black-tarred street being swallowed by speed; he tells you his dean is making him hire a person of colour when there are so many great writers out there.
You think maybe this is an experiment and you are being tested or retroactively insulted or you have done something that communicates this is an okay conversation to be having.
Why do you feel comfortable saying this to me? You wish the light would turn red or a police siren would go off so you could slam on the brakes, slam into the car ahead of you, fly forward so quickly both your faces would suddenly be exposed to the wind
(From “Citizen” by Claudia Rankine)
Described as a “powerful poem for today” Claudia Rankine’s “Citizen” won the 2015 Forward Prize for poetry.
As part of the UCU Day of Action Against Racism in the Workplace we are inviting you to take part in a relay reading of this extraordinary poem about Everyday Racism
The reading will be led by acclaimed actor Burt Caesar who has performed with the Royal Shakespeare Company, The Royal Court Theatre, and in feature films such as Skyfall.
Join us at 4pm on Wednesday 10th February on the Penrhyn Road Campus in Town House Room 102 (TH102) where we will read the poem from start to finish. You can take part in the reading or simply listen. Either way, we look forward to seeing you at this event.
Refreshments will be served
12 – 1.30pm What Does Prevent Mean For Us? – Panel Session (JG2001)
What does the Prevent legislation mean for us and how should we respond? Come and find out more at this panel session featuring KU students, NUS Black Students, Bill Bolloten (Education Consultant), Jessie Blackbourn (KU Politics) and KU student films. Hosted by UCU this event is open to all staff and students.
2 – 3.30pm Witness (30 min., 2016) – Film Screening & Discussion (JG4007)
A discussion screening of new film ‘Witness’, an oral history project made by and featuring UCU Black Members speaking about their experience of everyday racism in the workplace. To be followed by open discussion. The findings of the recent UCU survey of Black members on their experience of racism in the workplace will also be available. This session is open to all staff.
4 – 5:30pm UCU Big Black Read – Live! (TH102)
A relay reading of ‘Citizen: An American Lyric’ by Claudia Rankine. Special external guests will share the reading with KU staff and students. All Students & Staff Welcome
UCU hourly paid survival guide
Hourly paid staff make a huge contribution to the education sector and yet the vast majority are low paid and have no job security or career progression. UCU’s ‘hourly paid survival guide’ uses the experience and advice of members to provide a practical resource for such staff.
*** UPDATED JULY 2015 ***
- outlines the rights of hourly paid staff and what they can expect from their institutions
- offers practical advice on how to survive difficult employment conditions, and
- suggests ways in which to seek improvements.
It also explains what UCU is trying to achieve and offers a range of support options.
The guide provides a great opportunity to recruit new members and organise so that hourly paid members are better-represented in their union and increase UCU’s ability to achieve much-needed improvements for them.
Download the guide below, or to request a printed copy please email UCU organiser Ronnie Kershaw: email@example.com.
Director of Human Resources
11th June 2015
Thank you for your letter of 29th May, UCU’s response follows the headings used in your
1. Collective Dispute
As has been made clear, UCU objects to the proposed points based performance
management scheme in the Faculty of Business and Law, referred to as the Developing and
Demonstrating Academic Excellence (DDAE) proposals; furthermore, UCU objects to the
refusal on the part of Kingston University senior management to enter into negotiation over
That University management do not consider these issues “to amount to a collective dispute”
is beside the point, it is not in the gift of managers to determine what is, or is not, an
acceptable basis for a trade dispute.
The introduction of such proposals would have clear impact upon the work of those whom
UCU represents, including potentially serious consequences for staff who fail to fulfil the
criteria contained within the proposals. As such these issues fall clearly within the scope of
the Kingston University Trades Union Recognition Agreement and within the meaning of a
trade dispute under section 244 of the Trade Union and Labour Relations (Consolidation)
Your statement that “we consider this as a matter for consultation not negotiation”
misunderstands the nature of the dispute and appears to be an attempt to interpose your
interpretation of what might or might not be a basis for collective dispute. It is the refusal to
negotiate and the intended imposition of the DDAE proposals that has prompted the
declaration of a collective dispute by UCU. The dispute can be resolved through the
university management suspending implementation of the DDAE proposals pending
negotiated agreement on such processes, including University wide principles to inform such
performance measurement criteria in any other faculty or department in the university.
2. DDAE Proposal
UCU recognises Faculty management’s desire to achieve “triple crown” accreditation for the
Business School, what is in direct contention are the DDAE proposals themselves, not the
aim of accreditation. We do not see that the requirements for the accreditation extend to the
Contrary to the stated management position, UCU members do not consider the DDAE
proposals to be a positive benefit to staff or their career development. UCU considers the
proposals to constitute a crude attempt to impose poorly developed and inappropriate
performance management targets upon academic staff in the faculty. UCU supports positive
career development, to the benefit of both individual staff and the institution, but the DDAE
proposals will not deliver this and are in fact a very blunt tool to address a complex and
sensitive task. We have been surprised that the proposed scheme appears to enjoy senior
management support, particularly in the light of the Vice Chancellor’s comments regarding
his opposition to crude and mechanistic approaches to the management of academic
You state that “the majority of staff seem to welcome the approach” – this is not the
feedback that UCU has received from staff. As previously stated, UCU has no issue with the
aim of accreditation for the Business School, and is supportive of appropriate career and
professional development, but objects to the current DDAE scheme and seeks negotiated
agreement prior to the introduction of any such proposals.
3. Workload Allocation
We repeat our request for Senior Management Team to explain why the proposed workload
system, at the point of implementation when Prof Julius Weinberg became VC, was not
implemented. The proposal had some issues to iron out, specifically to our knowledge the
need for faculty specific requirements, but had been developed in advanced cooperation in a
project team between UCU representing academic staff and the University management.
The UCU has already contributed considerable resource to specifying an acceptable system.
We reiterate our request for Senior Management to provide reasons for non-implementation
or a review of that proposal.
We repeat our view that failure to implement a fair and transparent, as well as workable,
work allocation system that would obviously provide information inputs to staff appraisals is a
major factor in staff dissatisfaction. We see this as squarely a responsibility of the Senior
Management Team, but one that necessarily has a major bearing on the acceptability of any
Faculty proposal to monitor and rank staff by their outputs.
In conclusion, UCU reiterates the declaration of dispute and calls for a special meeting of the
JNC between management and the UCU, under the Collective Disputes Procedure of the
Kingston University Trades Union Recognition Agreement. UCU also calls for the
suspension of the DDAE proposals in The Faculty of Business & Law under the status quo
clause of the Collective Disputes Procedure.
Dr Andy Higginbottom
Chair KU UCU
Nominations are now open for the KU UCU 2015 branch elections. Nominations are invited for the following positions:
- Branch Chair
- Branch Vice-Chair
- Branch Secretary
- Branch Membership Secretary
- Branch Treasurer
- Branch Health and Safety Officer
- Branch Equalities Officer
- Branch Committee (four places)
- Site Health and Safety Representatives (state which site: Kingston Hill, Knight’s Park, Roehampton Vale, or Penrhyn Road)
Nominations require the signatures of the nominee and two supporters (who must be branch members) and should be submitted using the nomination form (see below) to the Returning Officer Mike Roberts via email (firstname.lastname@example.org) or mail (address: Andy Higginbottom, FASS, FAO Mike Roberts).
The deadline for receipt of nominations is 17:00 on Wednesday 22 April 2015.
If you would like copies of the nomination form or further information either on the nominations and election process or on being a committee member, please email Simon Choat (email@example.com). Election results will be available no later than the Branch AGM on 20 May 2015.