Update #1 on QMUL: Furlough Our Student Staff


Click here to read the campaign launch. 

As many of you will have seen by now, yesterday afternoon Queen Mary University of London (QMUL) Principal, Colin Bailey, sent an email to all students, and a separate email to staff, regarding our campaign – QMUL: Furlough Our Student Staff. We wanted to write to you and explain the situation.

As previously stated, we decided many weeks ago to apply for the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (CJRS) for our student staff to try and avoid anyone facing financial hardship as a consequence of the COVID-19 pandemic. This would have allowed our student staff to receive 80% of their average monthly wages, covered by the scheme.

Instead, the University has offered to underwrite the cost of 80% of our student staff members wages based on our forecasted budgets, their possible available shifts and their possible availability to work. This is impossible for us to calculate and distribute fairly amongst our student staff.
More importantly, this offer is substantially less than the figure that our student staff would receive under the CJRS. The guidance set out by the Government states a specific formula for how furlough payments should be calculated, which translates into a figure of approximately £63,000 for the month of April 2020. Under the scheme that QMUL is offering, QMSU would only have £39,928 to pay our student staff this month.
This is a difference of £23,072, and 36.5% lower than what we believe the Union would be entitled to claim from the government overall, and whilst this difference would vary over the coming months, it would still fall substantially short of the CJRS. The difference between the two amounts varies for each worker, usually by hundreds of pounds.

QMUL’s refusal to let QMSU access the CJRS, which we still believe we should be able to access, or to underwrite the same amount of money, is therefore actively forcing our student staff employees into financial hardship. Most of our student staff are about to enter, or are already in, their end of year examination period, and those who have worked for us for the past few years are now saddled with the additional anxiety surrounding their wages and how they are going to pay their bills.
In his email to QMUL staff yesterday, Colin Bailey said “No student worker who is employed by the student union will be financially disadvantaged by this arrangement”. We do not know how he can come to this conclusion when the University is currently offering student staff £23,072 less than what would be provided by the CJRS - which results in many staff receiving no money at all. Under the CJRS formula, all of our student staff would receive pay.
For this reason, we continue to call on the university to either allow us to access the CJRS, or to underwrite the amount of money we would have been able to claim from it, for this month and beyond.
From today we will be sharing some real-life stories from our student staff themselves on our social media accounts, highlighting some of the problems they have faced as a result of the current situation. If you want to help, it would be really useful for you to share them and spread the word! 

Joe Vinson, Commercial Services Officer
Megan Annetts, Acting QMSU President