Staff in different areas don't always agree and we fully respect people's right to take industrial action. We continue to have constructive dialogue with UCU locally and will do as much as possible to avoid action taking place here if we can.
Alongside this, our Industrial Action Response Group is working to reduce the impact on you, your studies and your research throughout.
One of the major issues on the ballot was changes to staff pensions. The people who run the USS pension scheme have identified a deficit in it that needs to be addressed - either by making staff and universities pay significantly more in each month or by altering the benefits staff get.
Everyone's pension payments and benefits built up to date are secure, however changes to future benefits have been proposed. While the situation is regrettable, we think that changes put in place are the best option to avoid unaffordable rises in contributions for employees and employers alike. There is more information on this on our USS Pension staff webpages.
The national UCU wants all employers to ‘end contract casualisation and rising job insecurity’. Its publicity materials refer to ‘rampant casualisation’.
Since 2019 we have worked with our local UCU branch to halve the number of casual contracts and we have eradicated all zero-hours contracts, replacing them with more secure contracts. We do still have a number of staff on casual contracts but this is only where that particular arrangement works well for both parties.
Our staff work incredibly hard and we want to make sure they are rewarded fairly and as well as possible.
In the absence of a national agreement on pay, at Kent we have implemented a pay increase of 1.5% for most staff and more for those on lower grades. This is on top of the annual increments which many staff automatically receive.
We have also put in place a Reward Strategy to help ensure our pay policies are fair for everyone.
Equality, Diversity and Inclusivity are core values at Kent and we are working hard to reflect this in all of our work. While there is always more to do here, we have been making good progress at Kent and are currently working on our next Equal Pay Audit. Our gender pay gap has decreased in recent years and is lower than the national average for universities. Our work to support gender equality has also been recognised with a silver Athena SWAN award.
Workload is a challenge at Kent and we're very clear that we need to address it. In the absence of national agreement, our Wellbeing Working group recently surveyed staff to identify what the main issues are here at Kent. We will shortly be holding focus groups with staff to see what more we can do and will also be launching a Wellbeing Toolkit shortly.
Ultimately we want everyone to feel proud to work at Kent and this will remain a priority for our Executive Group in the months ahead.
Background to the local action - marking and assessment boycott
The local dispute at Kent stems from the University’s long-standing position of being unable to rule out any compulsory staff redundancies.
This has arisen from work underway to review our activity in certain areas of the University. Reviews of our subject areas are a normal part of our planning work to ensure we are offering courses that students want to study and that will best help them after they graduate.
Where there is an ongoing downward trend in students applying for a subject we need to work together on ways to do things differently. However, there are currently no plans for compulsory redundancies; these would only ever be a last resort.
Both nationally and at Kent, there are some areas where the number of students wanting to study a subject has been in sharp decline for a number of years. This is particularly true in some arts, humanities and social sciences subjects.
At this stage there is only one area where we have identified the need to make staff savings. This is in the Division of Human and Social Sciences, where staff are currently working to find ways to make savings.
We have also begun a strategic review in the Division of Arts and Humanities. The outcome of that review will guide our next steps and teams will be working together to build a strategy that ensures we deliver high-quality, attractive arts and humanities courses that students will want to study in the future.