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Why is there more and more strikes?
People were holding their signs, waving flags, and chanting: “Fair pay! Fair pay! Fair pay!”. For the first time, I stopped to have a chat. 
06 December, 2022

Disclaimer: All views presented in this article belong to the author, King’s Business Review only provides the author with a platform to exercise their freedom of speech

The first time I saw a picket line was when I was a first-year undergraduate. I had just got off at Holborn station and was running down the road towards Bush House when I stopped at the crossing to catch my breath. Confused by the commotion, I turned to ask my friend: “What’s up with that?”. He just rolled his eyes and clicked his tongue in annoyance: “It’s just some staff striking again. We can just walk past them.” 

On the 24th and 25th of November, we saw the picket lines form again at the Bush House and Strand entrance. People were there holding their signs, waving flags, and chanting: “Fair pay! Fair pay! Fair pay!”. Depending on when you stumbled across the entrances, they were passing out flyers with a smile, taking their time to educate students about the issue at hand, and giving teach-outs.  

For the first time, I stopped to have a chat. 

What is KCL UNISON? What do they want? 

The KCL UNISON members are workers in many different areas of Professional Services here at King’s College London. They form the administrative department, catering, cleaning, estates, finance, HR, KCLSU, King’s Sport, Libraries, Professional Services, Residences, Student casual staff, Student Services, and Security. 

In recent years, they’ve attempted to get KCL to improve their London Weighting offer, protect their contractual annual pay advancements, defend worker rights, and push back against unlawful or unreasonable workplace practices. They’re demanding fair pay, closure of gender pay gaps, career development opportunities, and reduction in workloads and stress. 

But as students, why should we care about the strikes?  

You may say: “It is not as if these professional staff have any impact on our lectures or tutorials here at King’s anyways.”. Well, it might not be evident, but professional staff are integral in every aspect of student services that you access during your time at King’s. They are working relentlessly behind the scenes to make student life easier.  

At the start of every year, KCL group chats are filled with students asking their peers if they’ve received their timetables yet. Some students don’t receive their timetables until the day before school starts, and some students were left without their timetables past the 26th of September. But what we’re not seeing behind the scenes are staff in the student services team who are overworked, understaffed, and underpaid. To get your student timetables out, staff worked 70 hours a week without pay which reflects the overtime required to finish a massive task with limited resources.  

But why do staff agree to work beyond their contracted hours then? Every individual deadline unmet cause another colleague’s deadline to be delayed, and you can see how this creates a domino effect that will end up toppling the system. However, it’s important to focus on how forcing and creating pressure on one individual to sacrifice their time and mental health to work on a problem, when it can be fixed with King’s surplus of £42.2 million a year, is unsustainable.  

Finding out about an amazing opportunity that could boost your career? Then just realising that the deadline was yesterday? The staff here at King’s are unable to plan for future events, or research future opportunities for students, as they are already up to their neck with the work required for tomorrow.  

For international students who struggled with visa issues, whether it be with their CAS or right to study checks, and waiting for to reply, be prepared for longer wait times. Whilst student numbers went up by 25.4%, staff numbers only increased by 3.9%- so how are staff able to reply to your enquiries at an appropriate time?

Those 9 AM lectures that you’re too tired to roll out of bed for? Staff work behind the scenes to make sure all the recording equipment around the campus is up and running so that the lectures will be recorded for your perusal. Especially at the height of the pandemic, when students were not able to be on campus, any issue with live capture equipment and systems prompted the tech support team to be available then and there. Without them, you wouldn’t be able to have the appropriate resources to catch up with any missed content. 

All in all, professional staff are the backbone of the university, and their dedication should be recognised, and they would be paid fairly. 

What would KCL UNISON like to see rectified? 

Staff in different jobs across the university are tired and stressed, with morale and goodwill at an all-time low. Staff want opportunities to stay, develop and progress at King’s, but due to the working conditions, there’s a huge staff turnover which doesn’t help with the efficiency of the university. 

This strike is to demand a meaningful increase in the staff’s basic pay rate. With RPI inflation at 12.3%, employers have increased pay by only 3% for the majority of staff. But it’s important to take into account increases in everything from bills, housing, food, travel and childcare – this is a pay cut. Combined with the cost of fuel, food and energy jumping up, they can’t afford less than an inflation-busting pay rise of at least RPI+2% and an end to poverty pay in higher education. That’s exactly what UNISON has been calling for throughout negotiations.

How can students support professional staff members? 

There are still UNISON staffs who are looking out of their offices at the picket lines, staff who are unable to stand up for themselves and make their voices heard, because they have prior-made appointments with students and they want to be there for students- these are the staff working in counselling, housing support, student services etc.  

Hence, we need to support the staff in their fight. We need to let them know that students support all staff in their demands, and you can do your part by sending an email to the principal saying that you support the strike! Liberate KCL have drafted an email and all you need is one click here


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