The right to withdraw labour as part of a legitimate industrial dispute is a core international labour standard, but the rogue tactics of Principal Colin Bailey suggest that he thinks he is above international norms. His stance on Action Short of a Strike (ASoS) is an outrageous move against staff who will already have foregone pay for their strike days. Such action is, in intent and effect, a direct attack on the right to freedom of association and associated, lawful, collective action.
In response to this bullying over 31 external examiners have resigned from the schools of Business & Management, English & Drama, History, Laws, Mathematical Sciences, Physical & Chemical Sciences, and Politics & International Relations. Externals who have resigned include Russell Group professors from Bristol, Cambridge, Cardiff, City, East Anglia, Exeter, Kent, Kings, Lancaster, Leicester, Manchester, Nottingham, Sheffield, Surrey, Strathclyde, York and Warwick.
Over 30 academics from leading universities block QMUL’s ability to run assessments until Bailey complies with norms of international labour standards.
The Senior Executive Team of QMUL, headed by Principal Bailey, have threatened to deduct 100% of pay on an indefinite basis from any staff member who does not reschedule classes cancelled on strike days. This threat is based on an interpretation of ASOS that refusal or failure to teach cancelled sessions amounts to a breach of contract, even though the university recognises that staff returning to work will be fulfilling all of their contractual duties, including teaching.
Coverage in national and regional newspapers (such as here) makes clear that QMUL executives have taken an extremely aggressive stance towards staff who voted for strike action, with consequences for all staff, not only UCU members and those engaging in industrial action.
Even staff not engaging in industrial action are threatened by Bailey’s actions, risking losing 100% of pay unless they cover work done by those on strike.
Even staff who have not participated in the strike will be affected. They can be forced to de-prioritise and drop all current work commitments to cover strike-affected classes; if they refuse and simply carry on with their other work duties the university will regard this as engaging in ASOS, and threatens 100% pay deductions until the staff member submits to the instruction.
This attack on staff is particularly extreme in QMUL, but has wider consequences. There is a risk that it will become a norm at other UK universities, with implications for all academic staff, not just UCU members on strike.
Because of this it is expected that this wave of resignations from external examiners will become a tsunami. It is anticipated that examiners will return to their post should Bailey renege on his rogue stance on ASOS.
It is widely known that QMUL Heads of School and other executive managers not appointed directly by Bailey object to his ‘hard man’ tactics, which amount to bullying rather than a sensible attempt to resolve the dispute.
Staff are engaging in industrial action to protect our working conditions and students’ learning conditions. Principal Bailey has shown that he is willing to sacrifice good relations with staff at the expense of our students. Indeed, he has demonstrated a willingness to jeopardise the future of the many Schools with significant numbers of staff involved in industrial action, by ‘warning’ prospective students that their education will be disrupted in the future.