UPDATE: We were able to call off the announced local strikes!

Management has agreed not to implement the deductions and to uncouple the ‘missed education tool’ from any industrial action. They refuse to remove policy of 100% deductions for Action Short of Strike itself, but their agreement not to implement it is major.

That is thanks to staff sticking together, the Tower Hamlets community speaking out, wider public outcry, and, especially, students making their voice heard. QMSU issued a joint statement, individual students wrote to management, signed open letters, organised School-wide communication, etc. Students stood up against these deductions and that solidarity was key in tipping the balance.

We’re grateful to everyone standing together and supporting us in our action against these deductions and the entire reporting infrastructure that they had sprouted.

QMUL is facing local strike action 3-14 April in response to management implementing deductions of 26 days for 6 days of strike. This post explains what’s happening, how strike action can be prevented, and what you can do to help. See also this flyer.

  1. What’s happening?
  2. Why is this policy a problem?
  3. How are management implementing the policy?
  4. What are we doing to prevent this?
  5. Further information?

What’s happening?

QMUL’s management has confirmed they will deduct 26 days of pay for 6 days of strike in February. See screenshot of the email. This is in line with a punitive deduction policy which they are unique in implementing, and which is turning QMUL into a pariah in the press – see, for instance: the Observer, and the Evening Standard

To challenge this dangerous policy, staff has announced strike days specific to QMUL: two weeks from 3 April – 14 April. These do not have to take place. Indeed, staff would have had the legal right to strike from Friday 24 March and chose not to. The delay in taking up strike days is to use strike days the way they are intended: to put pressure on negotiations.

QMUL management have a week to take seriously the concerns of staff, students, alumni, honorary fellows, Tower Hamlet communities, local and national politicians, etc. and chose to prioritise education and employee relations over a punitive policy. QMUCU is in conversation with management, and any support from students or sympathisers elsewhere will help us in making our case to put an end to these deductions.

Why is this policy a problem?

This policy hurts students as well as staff. Rescheduling is not possible in reality: there isn’t enough space or time. The demand shows management don’t know QMUL students, who have work and care responsibilities and cannot accommodate extra classes at the last minute. Moreover, students need the end of term to complete assessments or prep for exams, not catch up on a lecture. They need their teachers to support them in their assessment, not do teaching prep.

Rescheduling is not practical, it’s not for students, it’s just to intimidate. 

The policy is a threat to the right of association and the right of strike. As a human rights lawyer points out: withholding wages twice (staff isn’t paid for work withdrawn as part of legal industrial action in the first place) and threatening emails about deducting 33 days of wages for 3 days of strikes in November and 26 days of wages for 6 days of strike in February stops people from taking up their right to protest.

How are management implementing the policy?

From the looks of it, management is relying solely on the ‘missed education report form’ to deduct for non-rescheduling. Students have not been informed what the data they hand over to management is used for, or who will have access to this. The form is linked to in every email to students, and is now part of the official QMUL app. It is named to sound neutral, but it has been developed by the Industrial Action Contingency Group in direct response to industrial action. There is no infrastructure in place to deal with reports on this form outside of industrial action.

These Snitch Forms are a key gear in a machinery of intimidation. Management didn’t have the data to deduct for non-rescheduling until snitch form reports came in.

Filling in this form won’t get students a refund. On the contrary: these forms are used by Senior Management to ‘prove’ to the Office for Students that they are doing everything to mitigate strike action, and therefore don’t have to issue refunds.

What are we doing to prevent this?

Staff cannot let this go unchallenged (the legality is questionable and it will set a dangerous precedent that would undermine the right to strike for all workers across the UK), and is challenging this not just through political routes (e.g.: the Deputy Leader of Labour spoke out against it), legal routes, and a press routes (overview of recent articles), but also through an industrial strategy, which means: strike days particular to QMUL. Staff do not want to take these, but management does not seem to listen without that threat. 

Students have an important part to play in this. Discontent among students registers highly on the factors executives and governing bodies have to bear in mind. Students can demand them to put an end to more disruption by ending the destructive and disproportionate deductions policy. Here are some actions you can take — but reach out if you have other, more creative ideas!

  • Prevent local action: Let management know that their punitive deductions policy is damaging your education, not protecting it. Tell them their persistence with it shows they do not value your education, as only QMUL is hit with a local strike. Tell them the policy has to end. You can write privately, or screenshot your email and let social media know you have written. You can also write with a group, a year group or as a class group (though refrain from naming your teacher), or as a group of student ambassadors, or a group of the same dorm, or… Or ask your QMSU society to write publicly against this policy.
  • Join or organise your classmates: in a number of local Schools, students have started to write and sign collective open letters. You can add your voice to those, or if there isn’t one for your School yet, create one together with your fellow School mates.
  • Denounce Snitch Forms: Tell the governing body that the snitch forms sour the trust needed in a classroom, and in governing an institution. Tell them you do not appreciate being turned into a spy for Management to inflict unlawful deductions on your teachers.
  • Demand docked wages be put in the hardship fund: Sign the open letter demanding wages docked from striking staff are put in the student hardship fund. This used to be the case, but management stopped that. Both QMSU and QMUCU have voted to support docked wages being put into the student hardship fund, but management has yet to do this. Students can add their voice to the calls to direct this extra money management suddenly has to support students.
  • Call on politicians: Write to your MP, especially when they’re Labour, to call on them to intervene in the anti-strike policies

Further information?