Wed. Jun 26th, 2024

Start of term hit by five day strike

By Maurizio Kayonjo Oct 11, 2023
photo by Maurizio Kayonjo

The University and College Union (UCU) kicked off the new academic year with a five day strike. The strike from September 25 to 29 included Kingston University and 135 other institutes, protesting about pay and conditions. 

These strikes began in early 2018 when lecturers strongly opposed pension reforms. The dispute has continued to 2023, and UCU members have shown their willingness to continue the protests into 2024 if necessary.

Kingston University UCU Vice Chair, Anna L. Morgan said: “Unfortunately, not a lot has changed, the union has tried to negotiate but we are not getting much at the moment, so I think that unfortunately we will be seeing more industrial action in the coming future.”

The union handed out a leaflet for students that claimed many university staff face job insecurity on hourly, zero-hours, fixed-term, or fractional contracts. It said that at Kingston University, 43% of teaching staff have temporary contracts, with fewer job protections, particularly impacting women, BAME individuals, and disabled workers.

While many students haven’t been directly affected by the strikes, others are getting more and more annoyed by what’s been happening.

Megan Bowyer, a third-year law student at Kingston University, feels this way. She supports the lecturers’ strike for better pay and working conditions. But, as a student, she’s frustrated because she’s paying for something she’s not getting. Many students also have to spend extra money to commute and don’t always know when lectures are cancelled.

Bowyer also thinks the timing of the strikes isn’t good. Some of her classmates had no lectures right before important exams. She believes that teachers should be more supportive, especially when students need it most.

However, students have also supported the strikers in a number of ways. Animation students for example, created a zine compiled by lecturer Laur Fitton, to share information about the strike action and what a union, strike and picket line are.

Picket Line drawings by Level 4 Illustration Animation students in February 2022 at Kingston University: Eden Bakker, James Lucas, Stanley Miller, Abi Tucker, Amelie Williams and Maisie Sherriff
Picket Line drawings by Level 4 Illustration Animation students in February 2022 at Kingston University: Eden Bakker, James Lucas, Stanley Miller, Abi Tucker, Amelie Williams and Maisie Sherriff


Strikers organised picket lines on Penrhyn Road and at Knights Park with well-attended teach-outs and book sales to raise funds for a hardship fund with the help of Staff student solidarity Network Kingston.

Morgan said: “We always hope that they are going to improve our working conditions, because that will improve your learning conditions. At the end of the day, what we want is the very best for our staff so that we can deliver to our students.

UCU Strike in London, November 2022. Credit: Maurizio Kayonjo

In November 2022, the UCU recorded the biggest strike in the history of education across the country with over 70,000 staff members and 150 Universities meeting up for three days in London with strong back up support from Jeremy Corbyn and Mick Lynch among other notable people.

A Kingston University spokesperson said: “We value all our staff and confirm that all received the nationally agreed pay award of between 5 and 8 per cent from August 2023. We are also proud to be an accredited London Living Wage employer.

“We offer teaching contracts that cover a range of circumstances including offering teaching experience for PhD students and short contracts for practitioners who bring valuable expertise to our programmes, but have their own practices and contracts elsewhere.

“In addition, every year we invite a number of hourly paid lecturers to convert to permanent contracts, and are also working with the trade unions at other ways to improve academic contracts.”

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