At a huge meeting with over 160 participants, the QMUCU Branch voted to demand the removal of punitive deductions for ASOS. Members called on UCU to initiate an academic boycott of Queen Mary if management do not withdraw their threats and called on all external examiners to resign their positions at Queen Mary immediately. If the punitive deductions policy is not withdrawn by our next branch meeting on Wednesday (09/02), members agreed to vote on a resolution to escalate the dispute into indefinite strike action (see the full motion passed below).
The threat of 100% deductions for ASOS would mean that any member of staff who refuses to reschedule teaching cancelled due to the strike will not be paid until they agree to do so. Full pay deductions do not just apply to rescheduling cancelled classes, they also include other activities listed under ASOS. The Senior Executive Team leave staff with two options. Either to go on strike, come back and do all of the work they did not do during the strike – or to refuse to reschedule cancelled teaching and effectively take indefinite strike action. During the branch meeting, members expressed the strong view that no one should be left alone to make this decision. Instead, members will act collectively. If Colin Bailey and the Senior Executive Team of QMUL forces us into indefinite strike action, then we will take this action together. QMUCU has now launched a crowdfunder to collect money for the escalation of the dispute.
The Senior Executive Team insists that they do not accept partial performance. The Queen Mary UCU branch does not accept a partial strike. The 100% deductions policy undermines workplace democracy and the legal right of staff to withdraw their labour. Members call upon the General Secretary of UCU, Jo Grady, to condemn the tactics of Queen Mary management and put the full backing and resources of the national union behind the branch. The situation at Queen Mary has the potential to set a precedent across the entire Higher Education sector. This struggle will be crucial for the ability of all UCU members across the United Kingdom to exercise their legal right to take industrial action.
There were 117 eligible votes. 94.0% of them voted in favour of the motion, 2.6% voted against and 3.4% abstained. You can read the motion passed during the branch meeting below.
Motion on punitive deductions and management threats to labour rights and workplace democracy
This branch notes:
- The impressive strength of the vote for strike action and action short of a strike in the recent reballot, and the historically high turnout.
- The Higher Education Committee’s decision to launch 10 days of strike action on 14th-18th February, 21st-22rd February, and 28th February-2nd March, and Action Short of a Strike (ASOS) commencing 7th February, in the USS and Four Fights disputes.
- The attempt by Queen Mary management to threaten punitive deductions of 100% pay for each day of participation in ASOS, including for refusing to reschedule classes cancelled due to strike action.
- The open admission by management that any work on such days would therefore be voluntary and unpaid.
- The threat by management to cease employer pension contributions on strike days.
- The threat by the Principal to deliberately sabotage student recruitment in Schools and Institutes with the most active union memberships.
- The nationwide trend of HE employers threatening punitive deductions, albeit not often as aggressively as Queen Mary.
- Previous retreats from such threats by HE employers in the face of public and industrial pressure.
This branch believes:
- That these threats are a reflection of the pressure which the successful ballot and proposed industrial action are putting on management.
- That management has neither the interests of staff nor students in mind when making these threats.
- That these threats will escalate the dispute and make it harder, not easier, to resolve.
- That any plan to reschedule such a large volume of teaching after the strikes would be logistically impossible, and that management know this.
- That rescheduling such a large volume of teaching would also pose a health and safety hazard risking extreme work-related stress.
- That taking industrial action through the withdrawal of labour is a fundamental democratic right which is protected under Article 11 of the European Convention on Human Rights.
- That the threat of punitive deductions is intended to intimidate staff and effectively deny them the right to organise democratically at work and take strike action.
- That in a hierarchical and unequal workplace such threats are not borne equally, and that any effective response to such threats must be collective.
This branch resolves:
- To refuse to teach any cancelled educational activities.
- To demand that management withdraw their threats of punitive deductions.
- To pursue a public campaign to pressure management to do so.
- To launch a crowdfunding campaign to supplement the existing branch strike fund in giving financial support to members taking industrial action.
- As per 16.11 of the union’s rules, to call for a Special meeting of UCU’s Higher Education Sector Conference to take place at the earliest opportunity in order to discuss and take decisions on the Four Fights and USS disputes.
- To call on the General Secretary to publicly condemn the tactics of Queen Mary management and put the full backing and resources of the national union behind the branch response to this attack.
- To call on UCU to pursue all available legal avenues to challenge these threats and reverse any deductions.
- To call on UCU to initiate an academic boycott of Queen Mary if management do not withdraw the threat of punitive deductions.
- To call on all external examiners to resign their positions at Queen Mary until management withdraw the threat of punitive deductions.
- To meet again by Wednesday 9th February to vote on a proposal for UCU national officers to schedule additional local strike days, escalating if necessary to indefinite strike action, if management do not withdraw their threats.