A Pattern of Neglect and Disregard

QMUL senior management has once again shown less than full regard for staff (and this time) student health.

They have done nothing about workload, a major contributor to poor physical and mental health.

They have done nothing about the bullying reported in successive staff surveys and the Affinity at Work report. Bullying is a major cause of stress.

Now, they are risking your health by delaying the kinds of measures being implemented at other universities. The kinds of measures that indicate more care for staff and students.

QMUCU’s Response

On Friday, our branch meeting brought together members both in person and, for the first time, through significant online participation.

The discussion and debate was measured, but thorough, with differing viewpoints presented and discussed until consensus developed. Below are the key demands.

Cancel all face-to-face teaching now

The branch unanimously agreed that all face-to-face teaching should be cancelled with immediate effect.

The LSE, Durham, Lancaster, Leeds and Hertfordshire are all cancelling face-to-face teaching from Monday. Queen Mary should do the same.

Queen Mary is a large, densely packed university, in a densely populated part of one of the biggest cities in Europe. We have a very large portion of staff and students who must commute for work and study. Queen Mary staff and students are therefore at higher risk of catching COVID-19 than Durham and Lancaster staff and students. Our precautions should at least match theirs.

Senior management that cared about staff and students would worry more about their health and less about the potential costs of compensating students for lost classes. 

Give all staff a full week to adapt materials and to working remotely

Queen Mary has woefully underinvested in staff development, has under-resourced eLearning and destroyed Academic Development, the one part of the university that really understood how educators and students need to work together to maximise learning. These ill-informed decisions put us on the back-foot when it comes to alternative teaching and assessment.

Rushing to deliver online is a recipe for sub-standard learning outcomes.

Quality education requires thought and deliberation, reading of the relevant literature, careful design, discussion, experimentation.

Edinburgh and Hertfordshire have cancelled teaching for one week to allow staff to prepare. Queen Mary students and staff deserve to lead and participate in equally thoughtful approaches.

At the branch meeting, members were clear. Modules should be paused to give staff time to adapt their materials. For staff returning to work after the industrial action that means a full week from Friday, 20 March. For non-strikers, that means the coming week. 

Take care of non-academic staff

Over the last couple of years, senior management has shown its disdain for professional services staff. Flexible working is discouraged. Restructuring too often poorly handled. Part-time and shared job holders have been restructured out of their jobs.

Cleaning and other essential services roles have been under-resourced in the drive to generate cash. 

Now our colleagues in other unions report that these staff lack essential resources: no paper towels, some toilets with only fabric towels, unreliable hot water – all things required to staff safe in front-line service work.

Incorporate unions in decision-making

In some ways this is a matter of saving the worst for last.

Queen Mary management, for all it professes to want to be an inclusive, actively excludes unions from key decision-making. Unions were not invited to participate in the Coronavirus Response Group (CRG). When we queried this, the response was clear – we are welcome to informal discussions but the unions are not to be involved in anything that does not constitute negotiation or consultation. This is a recurrent theme – the law is treated as both the minimum requirement and the maximum.

Weak management is one that is too insecure, too thin-skinned or intellectually incapable of dealing with divergent opinions. Organisations fail when disparate views are excluded, and group-think takes over. We see this pattern repeatedly.

QMUCU members want to make sure that Queen Mary is a world-class university. That won’t happen while management keeps making decisions that make us an unhealthy university.

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