King's response to industrial action
We are very sorry that our university will experience strike action by members of the University & College Union (UCU) in relation to the national dispute over the sector-wide University Superannuation Scheme (USS), alongside many other universities across the country this Spring.
About the dispute
The dispute over the scheme relates to an increase in contribution rates, which the USS Trustee has decided are necessary to maintain the existing pension benefits. Universities and staff and employers have been asked to pay more into the scheme to meet the higher cost of these pensions.
The UCU position is that all the increases should be paid by the employers. The USS employers (including King’s College London) offered to pay an additional 0.5 per cent for two years, in return for no industrial action over pensions bringing contributions to 9.1 per cent. Unfortunately, this compromise offer was not accepted by UCU.
We very much hoped that industrial action would be avoided, and a solution found. Following the industrial action on pensions in 2018, we helped initiate the setting up of the Joint Expert Panel, a group set up by UCU and Universities UK (the body which represents employers on pensions) to look at the future funding and governance of the USS scheme.
We have continued to actively support the recommendations of the JEP and are engaged with UUK to support national negotiations to find a resolution to the dispute.
Our position on pensions
We know the depth and strength of feeling around pensions in our community and across the sector. We respect the right of our staff to strike and know that no-one takes the decision to take part in industrial action lightly. While no cost increases are desirable, they are reflective of the current challenges faced by all pensions schemes and the importance of maintaining the current and future benefits that members rightly value.
We want to do everything we can to attract, keep and develop our staff and we know that pensions are an important part of this, but they are negotiated at a national level, so decisions cannot be made by a single university alone.
Supporting our students during industrial action
We know that industrial action is unsettling for our students and we apologise for any disruption our students may experience. Our priority will be to minimise disruption and we are committed to delivering an educational programme for each individual student regardless of any period of industrial action.
The university will remain open throughout the strike action. Our libraries, computer rooms and services will be available throughout to enable students to continue their studies and independent learning. We will do all we possibly can to support students to continue their studies without detriment to assessment and outcomes. Faculties and departments will explore all appropriate options to make up for any possible lost learning.
How we are addressing other concerns
King’s College London is about the people who study and work here. Whilst the industrial action this Spring relates only to the national and sector-wide USS pension dispute, we recognise and are taking steps to address other important issues which are of concern to our students and staff and colleagues across the sector.
Rates of pay, as in most universities, are negotiated annually (through National Pay Bargaining) by the University and Colleges Employers Association (UCEA) which conducts national pay negotiations with the five sector trade unions.
We increased London Weighting Allowance by £277 this year and incremental pay awards for most employees below the highest point in their grade were worth about 3% of pay.
The increase to the national pay rates was effective from August 2019. The award comprised an increase of between 1.8% and 3.65%, the higher figure being paid to staff in the lower end of the pay scale.
When taken together the combination of the national pay award, incremental progression, and the increase to the London Weighting Allowance, increases to pay were between 2.14% and 6.08% with an average of 4.24%.
Our ongoing academic success depends on being able to develop and retain world class talent. We are committed to ensuring that colleagues across our community are treated fairly with terms and conditions and rates of pay which are appropriate and clearly defined.
In 2019, we took significant steps to reduce our reliance on fixed term contracts. We developed and have adopted a new policy, supported by UCU. This offers permanent positions to many of those colleagues who have been employed for more than four years on rolling short-term contracts and indicates that future appointments to fixed term contracts should normally be for at least two years.
Our Academic Education Pathway programme is offering greater recognition, reward and opportunities for advancement to exceptional educators who contribute to enhancing educational quality and innovation at King’s College London.
Our Graduate Teaching Assistants play a vital role in delivering and supporting teaching and learning, and we believe that the important work that they undertake deserves to be fairly and fully recognised. We are in the latter stages of a thorough, institution-wide review of how we employ, remunerate and develop our GTAs across King’s. A working group has recently concluded its work to develop proposals for a new model, and we hope to report on progress very soon.
King’s has taken a leading role in initiating discussions with other Russell Group universities about how we can work together to bring about improvements to employment practices across all these areas.
During 2018 our staff and students showed their heartfelt support for our cleaning and security staff employed by contractors Atalian Servest and CIS. On 1 August 2019 we were pleased that over four hundred staff, previously employed by these contractors, chose King’s as their employer. These support services are vital in keeping our university functioning so that we can continue to deliver our teaching and research agenda.
We are committed to embedding, equality, diversity and inclusion in all that we do. King’s College London has been a member of Athena SWAN Charter since 2007. As well as our institutional bronze award, we hold 5 bronze and 6 silver awards at faculty, school and department level and a Race Equality bronze award. We have developed and are implementing action plans for LGBTQ inclusion and disability inclusion, and most notably we have achieved our first entry in the Stonewall Workplace Equality Index.
We are addressing our gender pay gap. We are pleased to have seen a drop in our gender pay gap in 2019 to 17.8%, from the 2018 figure of 19%. Our gender pay gap is still a significant figure and through our action plan we will continue to seek to understand and address the underlying issues that lie behind it.
A key development in 2019 is the rollout of the professorial pay model, designed to remove inequities in professorial pay. Our approach on professorial pay is aligned with trade union and legal recommendations on good practice.
The ethnicity pay gap of 13.2% remains largely unchanged and although not required by government, is important for us to consider as a university. We know we have more to do and need to ensure that roles are equally attractive to all, and that our selection and retention policies are fully fair.
The welfare and wellbeing of staff is fundamental to King’s. As an organisation we aim to create a supportive, healthy and satisfying working environment where everyone has access to advice when it is needed. Good progress is being made to address staff wellbeing through our Employee Assistance programme, Occupational Health, Kings Health Partners and Kings Sport.
Organisational development has created Three Pathways to Wellbeing (Physical, Mental and Social) plus a Wellbeing Toolkit to provide tailored support, guidance and services.
We have dedicated workshops and resources to help teams and individuals to manage wellbeing effectively and wellbeing strategies and training opportunities are embedded in our leadership programmes for staff at different levels of the organisation.
Following the success of wellbeing month (ran consecutively for 3 years) local initiatives are taking place across Kings to raise awareness, break down stigma and encourage support, advice and conversation.
Giving our staff and students a strong voice
Our approach on important pay and conditions matters is underpinned by positive steps we have taken to give a strong voice to staff and students at the highest levels of the university. A newly structured Academic Board has been set up with a much clearer mandate for communicating the views of the university on all academic matters, ensuring greater representation and transparency on decisions that impact students and staff at King’s College London.
Elected academic staff now make up 51% of the membership of a new Academic Board, as opposed to 38% previously. We have also increased the number of students on the board from 5 to 13 including the President of the KCLSU, the three education-related Sabbaticals and nine elected from each of our faculties, with an even split of undergraduate, masters and PhD students. For the first time, we have two elected postdoc members; one from the Arts & Sciences faculties and one from Health and three elected professional services staff; one from education support, one from research support and one from service support.
Our students and staff also have a stronger voice on our Council, the body which oversees the work of the university. Under our new governance structure three staff members of our Council are Academic Board members who have been elected by the Academic Board from among its elected staff members. We are in the process of increasing the number of students on Council from 1 to 2.