QMSU UCU Statement
Following a vote from students at the Annual Student Meeting held on Tuesday 27th February, Queen Mary Students’ Union is proud to stand in solidarity with the UCU (University College Union), who represent a large proportion of our academic staff and postgraduates at Queen Mary.
The UCU are striking over proposed changes to the USS (Universities Superannuation Scheme) pension scheme from a defined benefit scheme (giving a guaranteed retirement income) to a defined contribution scheme, where pensions will be subject to changes in the stock market. According to the UCU, the average lecturer will be almost £10,000 a year worse off in retirement.
To show solidarity, we urge students to email the Principal requesting he publicly opposes pension cuts and calls for renewed talks between the UCU and UUK (Universities UK). The UCU have created a template for this, which can be found here. Where possible, students should join staff on the picket line on strike days and send messages of support to their lecturers and teaching staff.
We understand that many students are concerned about the impact this strike will have on their education, including exams and assessments. The University has guaranteed that students will not be disadvantaged in relation to their assessments and examinations as a result of sessions being cancelled due to industrial action and have organised further open meetings for students. Please do go along to these and raise any worries you may have about the strikes.
During strike days, Students’ Union Executive Officers will not be attending any academic meetings with the University, and on 28th February, with other student representatives, attended the UCU march and rally in central London to show their support for the strikes.
The Annual Student Meeting also passed a motion for the Students’ Union to lobby University management to protect grade results during the strike. We encourage students to contact their schools directly to find out what their policy on assessments due during this period is. You can read the full text of the motion here.
Students’ Union President Yas Yeahia has said:
“The Students’ Union are proud to support UCU’s strike, overwhelmingly voting in favour of this show of solidarity at our Annual Student Meeting. We urge all students to back their lecturers and we hope a resolution is found soon for the improvement of not only the student experience but the experience of our lecturers and academics. We must work together and as such must help each other in order to improve our students’ lives.”
The UCU are also running teach-outs during the strikes, and you can find out more and when and where they're taking place here.
What is a strike/industrial action?
Industrial action is when workers either go on strike or take other action (for example, not doing any work that is not included in their contract). Industrial action can occur when employees that are members of a trade union are in dispute with their employers that has not been resolved through negotiations. A strike is when employees stop working until their employers meet certain demands.
What is a picket line?
A picket line is a boundary established by workers on strike, usually at the entrance of their place at work, which others are asked not to cross to show solidarity.
If I go to Students’ Union events, spaces or venues, am I crossing the picket line? The Students’ Union is a separate, independent entity to the University. It has been agreed with the UCU that you will not be crossing a picket line if you come to Students’ Union events or buildings. This includes our shops, cafes, bars and the Qmotion Sport & Fitness Centre.
Why are lecturers going on strike?
Lots of University staff are members of the Universities Superannuation Scheme (USS)- a pension scheme that has around 400,000 members around the country. Universities UK has proposed to change the pension scheme to fall in line with changes in the stock market, a change that could see staff lose out on around £10,000 per year. Negotiations between UUK and the UCU had taken place over the course of several months, but have now broken down without agreement.
When are lecturers striking?
The strike will take place over 14 working days, spread across 4 weeks, starting on Monday 26th February. Strikes have already taken place on Monday 26th- Wednesday 28th February. Further strike action is due to take place on the following dates:
- Monday 5th, Tuesday 6th, Wednesday 7th and Thursday 8th March
- The entire week commencing Monday 12th March
- Monday 19th and Tuesday 20th March
Why has the Students’ Union decided to support the strike?
A motion was presented to our Annual Student Meeting on 27th February by students outlining why they believed the Students’ Union should support the strike. The motion was passed following a vote from students at the meeting and it is now policy for the Students’ Union to support the UCU.
Will my assessments be affected?
The University have stated that students will not be disadvantaged in relation to their assessments and examinations as a result of the strikes and industrial action. The strikes are a national issue and those who oversee the assessments and examinations know that students across the UK may be affected.
How can I show my support?
The UCU recommend the following ways of showing your support:
- Do not cross the picket line, including going to the library
- Attend teach-outs- full details here.
- Talk to friends and other students to get them to support the strike
- Post on Facebook, Twitter, Whatsapp etc to encourage other students not to attend classes
- Drop by a picket line and show your support by providing hot drinks, food and even encourage other students to not cross the picket line
- Consider holding a strike fund fundraising event to support staff
- Email striking lecturers to offer your support
- If you’re a postgraduate student, join the UCU to show your support!