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UCU accuses University of Kent of trying to 'bribe' staff

By Jack Dyson

The University of Kent has been accused of attempting to “bribe” staff in order to prevent further strikes.

It was revealed last week that it would “withhold 100%” of lecturers’ pay if they take part in the walkouts and 50% if they failed to reschedule any affected classes.

However, David Nightingale, the institution’s senior deputy vice-chancellor and provost, has announced an offer to “not deduct any pay for lost working time” if striking staff members agreed “to suspend their action” has been made.

More than 60 institutions across the UK, including Oxford and Cambridge, have been been affected by the action
More than 60 institutions across the UK, including Oxford and Cambridge, have been been affected by the action

The university’s branch of the University and College Union (UCU) labelled it a “bribe” and an “attempt to create division amongst our members” on Twitter.

This despite the UCU previously saying the initial withholding of payment as leaving its members "incandescent with rage".

Responding to the accusations, Mr Nightingale said: “We regret the use of such language in response to an offer which was made in good faith and which is in line with our ongoing commitment to minimise the impact of this action on our students.

“We have now heard from the local UCU that this offer has been rejected outright but we will continue to keep it on the table.

“A continuation of this action can only have an increasingly negative impact on our students.”

Staff members decided to take industrial action after Universities UK (UUK) announced plans to go ahead with changes to the pension scheme that the UCU claims will leave academics and administrators almost £10,000 a year out of pocket.

Walkouts began last week and resume on Monday.

Academics say they will not be rescheduling any of the seminars or lectures that were cancelled during the strikes.

Protesters at the University of Kent in Canterbury
Protesters at the University of Kent in Canterbury

Sian Lewis-Anthony, the president of the Kent branch of the UCU, said the university’s offer was a panicked move and highlighted the effectiveness of the industrial action.

She also claimed that, out of the "hundreds of emails” she has received recently, just one advocated the union accept it.

UUK and UCU are set to return to the negotiating table on Monday, March 5, with mediation service Acas also present.

Employees, though, are still scheduled to strike for four days next week and the whole of the following working week.

Sian Lewis-Anthony
Sian Lewis-Anthony

“If we give up our strike now, that’ll weaken our negotiating position,” Ms Lewis-Anthony added.

“The UCU has said nationally that it doesn’t want the action to stop until we’ve got the agreement that we need – which, essentially, will stop our pensions from being destroyed.

“If our pensions are slashed in the way that is being proposed, fewer really good people are likely to want to work in universities.”

More than 60 institutions across the UK, including Oxford and Cambridge, have been been affected by the action.

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