Industrial action update from Professor Karen Cox
7 March 2018
Thank you for your letters, emails and face-to-face conversations over the last few days.
I acknowledge the challenges we have all been facing over the past few weeks with strike action. It is not easy trying to balance respecting the right to take action over an issue we all want resolving in the best interests of current and future staff, our University and the sector as a whole, with minimising the impact on our students and those colleagues not taking action. As I noted in an email to colleagues last week, I would like to thank all of you for the time, effort and energy that is going into working our way through this; it is much appreciated. I recognise many of you are juggling relationships and communications between students, staff taking action and those not taking action and I do not underestimate the emotional work that goes in to this when current and future relationships are trying to be maintained.
I have heard from staff and students from across the University. I have been ‘out and about’ and talking with staff and students as well and I am very concerned about how things have unfolded here at Kent in relation to the dispute over pensions. I want to assure you I am actively seeking to resolve these internally. It is not the way I want things to be and my aim is to get back to positive campus relations between us all, our staff and students. To that end, I have indicated that we will not be deducting any pay for action short of a strike (ASOS) for this period of action. In addition, we have been talking, and will continue to talk, with Universities and Colleges Union (UCU) about our Graduate Teaching Assistants (GTAs) and hourly-paid lecturers positions to ensure there is no long-term detrimental impact if they choose to take strike action. I also appreciate all that is being done to mitigate the impact of any action on our students and hope that this will continue.
I will personally continue with my support for the need for decent pensions. I will also continue with my public calls for continued and constructive discussions between UCU and Universities UK (UUK) to resolve this. I made a public call to UUK in a letter dated 21 February on this which was reported in The Times and have continued to lobby UUK to this effect. I was very pleased when discussions resumed between UUK and UCU facilitated by the Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service (ACAS). I will continue to publicly support constructive discussions. We have also been lobbying the Universities Superannuation Scheme (USS) on this issue as well with regard to the assumptions which underlie the valuation and which are driving the deficit. We have invited them to the University to discuss this and had face-to-face conversations to raise our concerns. We have also lobbied them via UUK. We will continue to exert this pressure.
Earlier this year, I embarked on a series of discussions in schools and professional services departments and these are continuing. I see these as a good opportunity to have conversations about our future as a University and how we can work together to create an even better working, learning and research environment. I hope I will get to meet more colleagues at one of these meetings or one of the other open forums I will be running later in the year.
I look forward to working together with you all and I thank you for all you do for the University on a daily basis.
Professor Karen Cox, Vice-Chancellor and President