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Industrial action

Please find below FAQs about industrial action.

The trade union UCU has balloted circa 150 universities, including Queen Mary, to gain a mandate for industrial action.  There were two ballots: one over pay and working conditions and the second over pension cuts. The ballot closed on 21 October 2022, and UCU achieved a mandate.

The ballot was aggregated. This means that the UCU needed to achieve at least a 50% turnout of eligible union members, with a majority voting in favour of strike action across all eligible members in all branches. If this is achieved, then all branches can take industrial action. In this case, the turnout for pay and working conditions was 57%, and in relation to the USS pension scheme it was 60%. This means the national mandate has been achieved and that industrial action at all 150 participating universities, including Queen Mary, is likely. We have not yet been informed by the union what form the industrial action will take, or when it will happen.

For more information on these issues in relation to Queen Mary, please see the following information on the USS pension scheme, and blogs on tackling gender inequality and challenging fixed-term and casual contracts.

The ballot result was announced on 24 October 2022, confirming that a mandate for industrial action is now held at ~150 participating universities, including Queen Mary.

The trade union UCU has recently given notice of 18 days of discontinuous strike action across February and March 2023 as part of an ongoing national dispute linked to pay and pensions. The dates are:

  • Wednesday 1 February – one day
  • Thursday 9 February and Friday 10 February – two days
  • Tuesday 14 February, Wednesday 15 February and Thursday 16 February – three days
  • Tuesday 21 February, Wednesday 22 February and Thursday 23 February – three days
  • Monday 27 February, Tuesday 28 February, Wednesday 1 March and Thursday 2 March – four days
  • Thursday 16 March and Friday 17 March – two days
  • Monday 20 March, Tuesday 21 March and Wednesday 22 March – three days

UCU’s previous notice for Action Short of Strike (ASOS), including those activities that are a breach of contract, remains unchanged and includes all forms of ASOS listed on their ballot paper with the exception of a marking and assessment boycott. ASOS means staff work to contract and do not undertake voluntary activities. 

When previous industrial action has taken place, very few staff took part, and the impact was limited and only affected a small number of subject areas. The vast majority of our 32,000 students were unaffected.

As in previous years, our approach is to protect our students’ education and experience over all other activities. If you are in one of the affected areas, we have policies in place to minimise disruption to your education and experience. We have asked staff choosing to take part in industrial action to focus solely on their educational activities, and stop all other work where needed. This means we will ask all colleagues who take part in strike action to make up any missed education when they resume work, and anyone taking Action Short of a Strike to undertake their educational activities, and deprioritise other work.

In August 2022 UCU called off their marking and assessment boycott following an agreed local settlement. This latest ballot is for a new round of industrial action, on the same issues.

A motion to support industrial action was put to the Students’ Union Annual Student Meeting in both November 2021 and 2022. In 2021, the motion did not pass. In 2022, the motion passed with 77 votes in favour out of a total of 168 votes cast. Supporting industrial action is therefore now Students’ Union policy.

Between February and August 2022, we saw seven periods of strike action totalling 25 days, and a continuous period of action short of strike including a marking and assessment boycott.

Out of a workforce of around 5,400, 133 members of staff took part in the 10 days of strike action between 14 February and 2 March. Of these 133 members of staff, 66 participated in 3 days or less and 18 took part in all 10 days strike action. Over 50% of striking members of staff were from our Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences. Five additional days of industrial action occurred between 28 March and 1 April. 33 members of staff participated of which 17 participated in all 5 days.  A further 10 days of strike action in relation to a local dispute took place between 5 and 18 May, in which 12 members of staff in total took part. In relation to the marking and assessment boycott, only 108 people (2% of all staff) had pay deducted in July as a result of partial performance between 1 and 21 June.

This phase of industrial action was the fourth to take place in the last five years.

Very few people took part in the industrial action earlier this year, and the impact was limited and localised. The vast majority of our 32,000 students were unaffected and we expect the same with this new round of action. Faculties will be communicating with you very shortly if you are in an affected area.

Unfortunately, some misinformation is circulating relating to the current industrial action at Queen Mary. Much of this misinformation is being issued by the trade union UCU. See the following document for details.

Correcting misinformation factsheet January 2023 [PDF 109KB]

As in previous years, our approach is to protect our students’ education and experience over all other activities. In those disciplinary areas that may be affected, we are working with colleagues to protect your education and experience, by enabling staff choosing to take part in industrial action to focus solely on their educational activities, and stop all other work where needed. This means we will ask all colleagues who take part in strike action to make up any missed education when they resume work, and anyone taking Action Short of a Strike to undertake their educational activities, and deprioritise other work.

You should assume your class is running unless you are told otherwise. If you attend a class and find the lecturer is not there, please wait for 15 minutes past the start time. If at the end of that time your lecturer has still not appeared, you can assume they are not coming and leave. 

We want to ensure any education that is missed is made up. Therefore, if a lecture, seminar, practical or other educational activity is cancelled, and not rescheduled or made up in an alternative form, please report it on this form.

Please use this form to report a missed educational activity. Do not use this form to report your individual absence from the activity.

It is appropriate for your lecturer/educator to tell you they are taking industrial action, and which, if any, classes are affected. However, they should not use class time to discuss the details or reasons why they are taking industrial action. The time scheduled for educational activities should  be used for education related to your course. If your lecturer/educator does use class time to talk about the reasons why they are taking industrial action, please click here.

Please remember if any education that is missed is not made up, you should let us know here. (Please use this form to report a missed educational activity. Do not use this form to report your individual absence from the activity.)

Taking strike action generally means the individual will not work for that day, or period of days. Action short of a strike (ASOS) means working to contract and not undertaking certain activities, such as covering for absent colleagues. 

As in previous years, our approach is to protect our students’ education and experience over all other activities. In those disciplinary areas that may be affected, we are working with colleagues to protect your education and experience, by enabling staff choosing to take part in industrial action to focus solely on their educational activities, and stop all other work where needed. This means we will ask all colleagues who take part in strike action to make up any missed education when they resume work, and anyone taking Action Short of a Strike to undertake their educational activities, and deprioritise other work.

No. We will not deduct any pay for staff taking part in ASOS as long as they deliver all their educational activities, deprioritising or stopping other work where needed. If staff do not deliver their educational activities, we consider this to be partial performance and will deduct 100% of pay. This position is in line with the Universities and Colleges Employers Association guidance.

Peaceful picketing, outside the University premises, is a lawful activity and may include staff on picket lines talking about why they are on strike, and asking people crossing the picket line not to go into work.

Staff and students wishing to cross the picket line, to get to work or to their lectures or to use University facilities, are entitled to do so freely and without intimidation or fear of those on the picket line trying to stop them in any way. 

There is guidance on the UK Government website and restated in the UCU guidance for branches on picketing on what constitutes peaceful picketing. This includes not being physically or verbally abusive, not making a noise nuisance, not blocking entrances and not damaging property. Security staff will be monitoring the picket lines and if any staff or students feel intimidated crossing the picket lines they should contact security immediately, on 020 7882 3333.

When arriving on campus on strike days it is possible that you may need to pass staff taking part in the strike at the entrances to the University. Please be assured that the trade union has issued guidance that indicates that all pickets are intended to, and must, be peaceful. Access to campus entrances will not be blocked in any way and you should feel able to pass freely and easily without confrontation. If you witness anyone on a picket line exhibiting unacceptable behaviours, please contact security immediately on 020 7882 3333.

Only Queen Mary staff can join a Queen Mary picket line. No staff from other organisations are allowed to join and no students, from Queen Mary or other universities, should join the picket line. 

Unless you are informed otherwise by your School or Institute, you should attend your timetabled sessions as normal. Please do keep checking your Queen Mary email account for the latest information. The vast majority of lectures and other classes will run as normal. Wherever possible, we will let you know in advance if any of your teaching sessions are likely to be affected. However, staff do not have to tell us in advance if they are going on strike so in some cases this will not be possible.

Where teaching has gone ahead, attendance will be monitored as normal.

We want to ensure any education that is missed is made up. Therefore, if a lecture, seminar, practical or other educational activity is cancelled, and not rescheduled or made up in an alternative form, please report it on this form.

If any of the students’ timetabled teaching time was cancelled, the School or Institute will have informed the Registry office, and they will ensure that students will not be marked as out of attendance. This means that there will not be any impact on their visa status.

Supervisions, review meetings and vivas for research students are arranged on an individual basis. Please contact your School or Institute in the first instance if you have any concerns. Alternatively, you can contact the Research Degrees Office: researchdegrees@qmul.ac.uk.

We will ensure you are not disadvantaged in your assessments by this period of industrial action.

Please assume that deadlines still apply as normal unless you are contacted by your Head of School/Institute to say that an extension has been granted.

Please assume that deadlines still apply as normal unless you are contacted by your Head of School/Institute to say that an extension has been granted.

If your teaching is cancelled because of strike action, your School or Institute will be aware of what you have missed so it will not be necessary to submit an extenuating circumstances claim. Please do not submit extenuating circumstances claims just because you think you might have been affected. Only submit a claim for a clearly defined issue that is specific to you as an individual.

All student services, including our libraries and student wellbeing services (including advice and counselling), will remain open as normal throughout the period of industrial action.

If you wish to raise a complaint, please find information about the University's normal complaints procedure here.  

We are working very hard to mitigate the impact of this industrial action upon you, our students. 

We have put in place policies to ensure that any education missed due to industrial action is made up. If a lecture, seminar, practical or other educational activity is cancelled, and not rescheduled or made up in an alternative form, please report it using this form. We can then follow up and ensure the education is made up.

Your fee is based on the delivery of your overall experience for the full duration of your course, rather than for a specific set of teaching contact hours. It is also important to remember that the tuition fee covers all aspects of your time at Queen Mary and all the facilities that are available to you. For these reasons, in line with other universities, we do not believe any refund is appropriate. We are continuing to closely monitor the impact of the industrial action on our students’ education.

Students can raise and track a query through Student Enquiry Centre Online, email studentenquiry@qmul.ac.uk, or talk with their school or institute (contact details can be found here).

Communications with students

 

Title and link Date From
Update from the Vice-Principal (Education) - 26 January 2023 [PDF 140KB] Thursday 26 January 2023 Professor Stephanie Marshall
Update from the Vice Principal (Education) 14 November 2022 [PDF 65KB] Monday 14 November 2022 Professor Stephanie Marshall
Update from the Principal - industrial action [PDF 68KB] Tuesday 25 October 2022 Colin Bailey
Update from the Principal - 17 August 2022 [PDF 113KB] Wednesday 17 August 2022 Colin Bailey
Update from the Principal - 4 May 2022 [PDF 108KB] Wednesday 4 May 2022 Colin Bailey
Update from the Principal: 2 February 2022 [PDF 126KB] Wednesday 2 February 2022 Colin Bailey
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