Due to the amazing efforts of QMUCU members which included countless hours of phonebanking and reaching out to colleagues, the UCU reballot on the USS Pensions dispute and Four Fights at QMUL was a huge success. Queen Mary passed the turnout threshold and secured a massive vote in favour of industrial action. 86% of members voted in favour of strike action on USS and 85% on the Four Fights. 90% and 94% voted in favour of action short of a strike on USS and the Four Fights respectively. Turnout over USS was an historically high 54.3%, and for the Four Fights it was 51.2%. In both ballots, more votes were cast this time than during any previous industrial action ballot at Queen Mary.

Last week UCU announced the upcoming national strike days for both disputes.

  • USS dispute: 14-18 February and 21-22 February
  • Four Fights dispute: 21-22 February and 28 February-2 March

Staff members will have seen from yesterday’s communication from the university management that Queen Mary is planning to enact punitive deductions of 100% wages on staff who refuse to reschedule classes after the forthcoming strikes. This is only the latest in a series of confirmations that Queen Mary management have total contempt for their staff, and especially for those who dare to stand up to defend their working conditions. These playground-bully tactics are not only completely reprehensible, they are totally unworkable in practice and cannot defeat your collective action if you stay strong and united with your colleagues. 

Our Branch Chair James has been in communication with UCU HQ. We expect to receive further guidance, including on the legal issues involved, from UCU HQ very shortly. As soon as we hear back from the national union we will let all members know how to proceed.

It is important to be prepare ourselves for a difficult fight. The management has taken a very aggressive stance towards the strike. In this moment it is also important to remind ourselves what we are fighting for. We are fighting to not lose a third of our pension when we retire. We are fighting to end the use of casual contracts which force staff to live in poverty. We are fighting to not experience a real terms pay cut every year as inflation eats away our salaries. We are fighting to end the gender and BAME pay gap. We are fighting to have workloads which would allow us to spend time with out friends and family, workloads which allow us to have a life outside of work. These are things worth fighting for. None of these issues are going to improve unless we are willing to withdraw our labour and disrupt the normal working of the university. And no matter how much we hate disrupting our students’ education, there is just no other way.

There are two things we can do now before the advice from the national union comes in. Firstly, talk to your colleagues in your Schools and try to organise a departmental meeting. If you do not know how to do this or are afraid to approach all colleagues no matter their union membership, please write to the branch committee at ucu-coordinator@qmul.ac.uk.

Secondly, come to the branch meeting which takes place this Thursday 3rd February at 1pm to discuss a collective plan to counter management’s punitive approach to deductions. Please encourage your colleagues to come along. Join the Zoom meeting here: https://us02web.zoom.us/j/83610858320