When are the strikes happening?
Strike days have been called on 5-6 May, 9-13 May, and 16-18 May.
These days have been called to cause maximum disruption to the university during the bulk of assessment and examinations. Calling these days as strike action rather than action short of a strike will make it harder for the university to mitigate the impact. This is because participants in the strike will cease all work on those days, not just marking and assessment, and so managers will not be able to assume they can contact you. This will make it more difficult for the university to mitigate the impact of our action, by e.g. pressuring staff to upload outstanding grades, finding alternative markers, reallocating duties to free up time for marking, asking about your participation in the boycott and so on.
What should I do/not do on the strike days?
Queen Mary UCU will not operate in-person pickets on strike days in May. This is because students are studying for exams at this time and because footfall on campus is generally lower. Instead, QMUCU will hold online and in-person events to help organise and co-ordinate the action.
If you are scheduled to mark, moderate, set, or help administer assessments on any of the strike days, you should not work at all on those days. No one, whether marking or not, should participate in the collective administrative life of the university. You should not attend, for example, departmental meetings or research events, even remotely. You should not teach on these days. If you would not have been doing any of the above activities, contact a local rep or the branch for further advice on how best to participate in the strike.
If for any reason you do not participate in the strike on any given day, you may wish to consider working from home if that is an option for you. You should also participate in the wage sharing scheme (see below).
What is a marking and assessment boycott? When will it take place?
From 19th May, after the strike days are over, action short of a strike (ASOS) in the form of a marking and assessment boycott will commence.
This means that you should refuse to carry out any duties relating to marking and assessment. It is particularly important that you do not upload any grades to QMPlus or commit them to writing on any university system. However, you should expect and offer to carry on with your other duties as normal.
Queen Mary will likely deem such action short of a strike as “partial performance”. Previously they have said they will not accept partial performance and will therefore try to deduct 100% of your pay on any day where you are participating in action short of a strike. This is legally dubious, logistically difficult for the university to implement, and the basis of our local dispute. The branch will issue further guidance on how to respond to this closer to the period of ASOS.
If you are not scheduled or asked to carry out any duties relating to marking and assessment, you should work as normal during the period of ASOS. However, if you are subsequently asked to carry out such duties, you should refuse to do so. No colleague should under any circumstances mark work that was previously assigned to another colleague who is participating in the boycott. This undermines the marking boycott, the sacrifices of your colleagues, and academic standards.
If you are not supposed to be marking and are working normally during the period of ASOS, you should participate in the wage sharing scheme (see below).
What about oral and practical examinations?
In the case of oral and practical examinations for undergraduates and Masters’ students, you can invigilate these examinations as normal, to prevent disruption to students, but you should not submit any written feedback or numerical marks, or participate in any moderation procedure.
Doctoral vivas and upgrades are not affected by the marking and assessment boycott.
What about giving feedback to my students?
The marking and assessment boycott does not prevent staff from giving informal oral or written feedback to students on their work at their discretion. However, you should not upload grades to QMPlus or commit numerical grades to writing on any university system.
You can continue to support students in making applications for jobs and further study, including by providing references which include predicted grades.
When will the action end? Will I have to mark the assignments eventually?
This is impossible to know in advance with certainty, and will depend on the outcome of any negotiations with management. The action may be short if quick gains are made, but a long period of industrial action may also be necessary.
Whether marking will still need to be completed after the industrial action is over will depend on how long the action lasts and what, if any, mitigations the university puts in place. If marking still needs to be carried out after the action ends, it will have to be completed in a reasonable and safe time frame. This could lead to marking delays into the summer period.
Should I declare my participation in strike action or action short of a strike?
You are under no obligation to declare your intention to participate in industrial action in advance. The branch will issue further guidance on what to do when you return to work on 19th May.
When might my pay get docked for this industrial action?
Queen Mary have previously said they will implement deductions for strike action and ASOS in the next available pay period. Since the strike continues until 18th May, this will make it hard (though not impossible) for HR to process deductions for action taken in May in the May payroll. However, deductions for action in June and July are more likely.
What financial support is available to members participating in industrial action?
There are funds available to provide strike pay for members who have wages deducted for taking industrial action. There are two sources of funds:
- UCU Fighting Fund – This is a national fund which any member in good standing can apply to.
- QMUCU local strike fund – This is a fund established from local branch reserves to supplement the national fund.
The local fund will be further enlarged through the launch of a wage sharing scheme to assist members taking the action. For more details on strike funds or to donate, see the strike fund page on our website.
What is the wage sharing scheme?
Taking prolonged industrial action can be costly for those who participate. Queen Mary UCU has raised considerable strike fund reserves, but to keep them sustainable in a long strike it will be necessary to raise funds from members who are not directly suffering pay deductions. This is called wage sharing. It allows members who are not directly involved in industrial action to make a significant contribution towards the success of the action.
Those who are not directly participating in the industrial action (because they are not marking) should set aside a proportion of their salary depending on their income level (see suggested contributions below). The branch will establish a form for making pledges to the wage sharing scheme. If pay deductions are implemented, the branch will call upon members who pledged to donate this sum to the strike fund. The branch will then redistribute this to members taking part in the action who suffer any pay deductions.
No one in financial distress should make a donation to the strike fund.
Queen Mary UCU recommends the following contribution levels:
Those earning under £30,000 p.a. should pledge one day’s salary per week and donate this to the strike fund if called on to do so by the branch.
Those earning over £30,000 p.a. should pledge half their salary and donate this to the strike fund if called on to do so by the branch.