Along with the School of Biological and Chemical Sciences, another part of Queen Mary that is being extensively ‘restructured’ is the School of Medicine and Dentistry (SMD).
This was another case where management issued plans for sweeping changes, in this case to address a suddenly revealed £6m budget deficit. As usual, rather than managers being held to account for this appalling situation, managers proposed instead to sack dozens of staff, which UCU believes can only damage the quality of medical teaching at Queen Mary as fewer staff remain to pick up their ex-colleagues’ workload.
Management proposals can be viewed here and UCU’s response here. During the 30-day “consultation” period, meetings were called at very short notice, leaving union reps unable to attend, data requested was supplied slowly and incompletely if at all, senior managers like the head of school were frequently absent from talks. We tried to persuade management to pursue other ways to cut costs in a way that preserved the quality of education and research in the School and didn’t treat staff like disposable assets, and we made a number of concrete proposals to help cut the budget deficit.
Unfortunately management railroaded ahead with their plans, totally ignoring the alternatives, and last week 43 staff were told their jobs were “at risk”. This includes 29 academics (out of 184, i.e. 16%) and 14 clinical-academic staff (out of 120, i.e., 12%), meaning combined cuts of around 14% of academic and academic-clinical staff. They were not even given the data upon which these decisions were made, i.e., their achievements compared to the redundancy criteria. We have been told this data is now being “checked” before being sent out. Obviously it should have been “checked” before decisions were made, since it was – supposedly! – the basis for those decisions.
This is yet another example of College managers treating their most important asset – its staff – with borderline contempt. Sadly it also illustrates their commitment to press ahead with damaging plans even when presented with alternatives that could save jobs and protect educational standards at Queen Mary.
We are pressing the College to make clear the basis on which staff have been identified as “at risk”, to perform equality impact assessments, to distribute the relevant data to staff, and to commit to no increased workload for staff left behind. We are also providing representation to at-risk staff in meetings with managers. UCU calls on all branch members to write to the Principal and Head of School to express their anger at the disgraceful treatment of their colleagues in SMD. We have no doubt such treatment is likely to be meted out to staff in SBCS unless management are forced to listen to reason.