Management at Queen Mary is threatening to deduct 100% of wages for every day a member of staff refuses to ‘make up’ the work withdrawn as part of a legal industrial action. Staff cannot let this happen, as it represents a direct attack on the right of association for workers across the UK. Not only would rescheduling withdrawn labour imply doing work staff isn’t paid for as staff do not get paid on strike days, management is, effectively, trying to deduct twice for the same labour withdrawn. Concretely, for the 3 days of strike in November, they tried to deduct 33 days of wages; for the 6 days of strike in February, they have confirmed they will deduct 26 days of wages. The disproportionate threat itself already endangers the right of association, since it discourages staff from taking up their right to participate in industrial action, as outlined by David Mead in this blogpost and longer article.
At QMUCU we realise we are fighting this local battle for the sake of workers across the UK. QMUL cannot set a precedent, or this will spell the end of the right to strike. Supporters near and far realise QMUCU cannot lose this fight, and have spoken out in undeniable support. We list some of that here — and encourage everyone to speak out as well, individually or collectively.
Our students have been phenomenal. They have been used as the shield for the intimidation — the deductions policy is purportedly to protect education — but have refused that role.
- QMSU and QMUCU issued a joint statement in the lead up to the potential local strike
- Students wrote to the Senior Executive Team and to the governing body demanding they put an end to the threats, with the resources at the bottom here.
- Students organised their schools and created open letters (for instance: History, Politics & International Relations, and Law)
National as well as local politicians see the danger of this policy for the entire country. They speak out, on behalf of QMUL staff, but for workers’ rights at large.
- Deputy Leader of Labour, Angela Rayner: “the steps being taken by these institutions is not in the interest of universities, their staff, their students or the country”
- Lutfur Rahman, Mayor of Tower Hamlets: “I am, however, Mayor for everyone in this borough, and I therefore feel I must speak out about the university’s handling of its workers’ decision to strike. As far as I’m aware, QMUL is committed to deducting 100% of staff’s wages indefinitely for not rescheduling classes cancelled due to the strike. This cannot be right.”
- Apsana Begum, local MP and QMUL alumna: “I was concerned to read that QMUL is taking this course of action against its staff and would like to urge for reconsideration of the decision to withhold staff pay. In action short of a strike, staff work strictly to their contract: not covering for absent colleagues, not rescheduling lectures or classes cancelled due to strike action and not undertaking any voluntary activities. That doing so is seen to merit a 100% pay deduction until ‘all planned educational activities are complete’ brings in to focus the commitment and generosity of QMUL staff members, who so frequently go above and beyond what they are contractually required to do.”
- Rushanara Ali wrote: “Extremely concerned to hear reports that QMUL are trying to dock strikers’ pay by a month for 6 days of strike action. The right to strike must be respected and I urge QMUL managers to urgently rethink this draconian response.”
The threat to workers’ rights at QMUL has an impact on our local community, with which we have fostered close bonds. Not only are many of the workers at QMUL from Tower Hamlets residents, the threat to QMUL staff’s livelihoods and rights will reverberate through the borough. Our borough has had our back in fighting against this.
- Nijjor Manush, campaigning group that aims to educate, empower and organise Bengalis and Bangladeshis in the UK: “We acknowledge the rich and local legacies of industrial and community action… These are histories that have indelibly shaped the culture of the borough, and are histories that Queen Mary University has itself benefitted from and sought to leverage through its academic production and public outreach. Therefore, for the university to use these present strikes as an opportunity to pioneer new forms of strikebreaking compounds insult with injury, and is an affront to the people Queen Mary calls its community.”
- Tower Hamlets Trades Council: “Resorting to macho-management techniques is another sign of this, but one we will resist because it is not only a threat to UCU members at QMUL, but to all trade unionists, everywhere.”
- Local football club Clapton CFC wrote “Union Busting in East London 👎 Despite being a charity, QMUL’s management have adopted a brazen union busting strategy against staff striking for fairer pay. Full solidarity to @qm_ucu from everyone at Clapton Community FC. 🤝”
QMUL alumni and honorary fellows
Those who best know our university, as former students or honoured members, express their shock at what is being done to an institution whose project and goals they used to believe in, and that in particular to staff, the people who have always been their only interaction with the institution.
- Former graduate students wrote collectively: Given the current cost of living crisis, it also shows a cruelty that is totally at odds with the ethos of QMUL. Furthermore, it undermines QMUL’s stated commitments to ‘foster[ing] social justice and improv[ing] lives through academic excellence’.
- Sarah Waters, novelist: “[I] appeal to you as a Councillor to do all in your power to persuade QMUL management to abandon this deeply distasteful and unfair attack on its staff.”
- Alumni from the School of English and Drama wrote a collective open letter.
The academic world
Queen Mary is a University, not a business. Its functioning as a university is reliant on collaboration across the academic world, and that world has been speaking out in horror.
- External examiners resigned en masse in response to the deductions policy
- Prestigious scholars refused to boost the ranking of QMUL’s reputation when requested to do so by the Principal.