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University of Kent strikes resume

By Jack Dyson

A striking member of staff from the University of Kent has said he may not be able to pay his rent as walkouts over proposed pension changes resume.

Employees and students gathered at a number of points on campus to protest Universities UK’s (UUK) plans to go ahead with changes to the scheme that the University College Union (UCU) claims will leave academics and administrators almost £10,000 a year out of pocket.

Our sister paper, the Gazette had revealed that Kent would “withhold 100%” of lecturers’ pay if they take part in the walkouts and 50% if they failed to reschedule any affected classes.

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The walkouts began with five days of strikes on Thursday, February 22
The walkouts began with five days of strikes on Thursday, February 22

Tom Sharp, a student support manager, has said the resultant loss of income will leave him struggling to pay his rent.

“Obviously we don’t get paid when we strike, so as long as we’re here that affects our salary,” said the father of two.

“Potentially it’s more than half of this month’s salary, which means I won’t necessarily be able to pay my rent and I would need to find other ways of getting by.

Student support manager Tom Sharp
Student support manager Tom Sharp

“I might have to use some of my savings, it might affect my summer holidays and there might be other things I’ll have to give up.”

Last week, David Nightingale, the University of Kent’s senior deputy vice-chancellor and provost, announced an offer to “not deduct any pay for lost working time” if striking staff members agreed “to suspend their action” had been made last week.

Kent’s branch of the UCU labelled it a “bribe” and an “attempt to create division amongst our members” on Twitter - despite previously saying the initial withholding of payment had left its members "incandescent with rage".

There will be four days of strikes this week ending on Thursday and further walkouts for the entirety of the next working week.

UUK and UCU are set to return to the negotiating table today, with mediation service Acas also present.

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

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