Archive for UCU

No time for complacency

As many University of Kent students no doubt know, the university has moved forward with plans for compulsory redundancies amongst staff in the university’s Biosciences department. The University and Colleges Union (UCU) branch at the university voted to take action to stop the twelve members of staff losing their jobs and livelihoods.

 Biosciences course representatives were quick to establish a Facebook group to protest against the proposed redundancies in the department however, this group has since been taken over by the official Kent Union bureaucracy and much of the original fervour and angst has been diluted, turning the group into a talking shop and information site, rather than a group dedicated to taking robust, determined and forthright action against any job losses.

The group now looks complacent, only willing to discuss the situation, rather than lead with proposals to fight back against the university’s ill-advised and, frankly, crass decision, to force hard-working, committed members of staff, out of their jobs and onto the scrap heap.

Fortunately, a new group has been created to address the complacency of Kent Union official bureaucrats, ‘Student Activism against the Biosciences cuts’. The group will endeavour to put forward a plan of action against cuts and redundancies in any department at the University of Kent. It will look to other campuses, such as  the University of Sussex’s ‘Stop the Cuts- Defend Sussex’ campaign, which enjoys the healthy support of University of Sussex Student Union (USSU) officers, including Josh Jones, USSU’s  Education Officer, who has recently called on Sussex University management to take a 10% pay cut!

Students at the University of Kent need full-time officers like Josh Jones and the other USSU sabbs. Students need officers who will support and encourage grassroots, student-led activism, that won’t rule out any tools at the disposal of students to challenge unfair decisions from the university management. The student movement’s greatest strength is its sheer size in numbers, as well as the close proximity students have with one another, particularly on collegiate campuses such as Kent.

A vibrant and robust anti-cuts, anti-redundancies, pro-learning campaign is needed at the University of Kent. Students need officers who are familiar with grassroots campaigning, aware of the need to promote a culture of activism on campus and in the community, and ready to utilise the student body behind any action.

Mobilising students is no easy task; it takes time, effort and good organising skills to do so. However, what is needed, more than anything else, is engagement. It should not be a matter of students’ going to the union, but of the union going to students. There should be regular, weekly campaigns from union officers. Union officers need to be quick at recognising issues, and even quicker in responding to them.  

In short, students need activism, not complacency.

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Statement of support for Biosciences staff from VP Welfare candidate

Aaron Kiely, a committed student activist and community campaigner, as well as candidate for the position of Vice President (Welfare) in the upcoming Kent Union elections, has come out with a statement of support in favour of the UCU and those opposing cuts in higher education. Aaron said:

I am absolutely behind our lecturers and their union in this. I attended the meeting where they voted unanimously to campaign against these redundancies and defend their members, OUR lecturers. To make someone redundant at a time like this where no one is employing is outrageous and these people have families and themselves to support.

The whole process that staff have been made to go through is degrading, with them being graded against an arbritary scale. Female staff are also being disproportionately hit and all four female staff are threatened with redundancies. Science is male-dominated enough, we should be employing and supporting more women in the sciences, not laying them off.

I am heartened to see a lot of student support and look forward to working with the UCU, and other Unions in opposing these redundancies and the mistreatment of staff.

You can join the Facebook group opposing the redundancies here.

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UCU votes to take action at the University of Kent

The University and College Union (UCU) branch at the University of Kent has unanimously voted in favour of taking industrial action if negotiations over compulsory redundancies break down.

The meeting took place last night and was attended by some 124 UCU members at Kent, as well as 5 at Medway and 16 from the Law School.

At the heart of this matter is compulsory redundancies in the Biosciences department, which incidentally is top in Teaching Quality Assessments and top in the National Student Survey.

It has been reported that ten out of the twenty-seven staff members in the Biosciences department have been given letters of notice that they’re scheduled to lose their jobs. It was also highlighted that this is not a financial issue given that the Biosciences department has not run a deficit, instead, it seems to be about re-structuring the department and placing an emphasis on creating jobs which are designed to attract big business investment, rather than placing an emphasis on the quality of teaching students receive.

Keith Mander, the Deputy Vice-Chancellor at the University, has presided over the implementation group which has threatened the staff with redundancies.

The UCU branch chair predicted that a “storm is coming”, as well as saying it’s “never been as bad as this before.”

More from Dave Semple at Though Cowards Flinch.

UPDATE: It is now suggested that 12 members of staff from the Biosciences department face the threat of compulsory redundancy.

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