Message from your President - UCU Strikes

UCU have balloted to take industrial action with a strike taking place between November 25th and December 4th. This means that members of Queen Mary staff in UCU will be striking between those dates. 

Please note the University will separately contact all students early next week with further information (Week commencing 11th November) 

What is UCU and why are their members taking industrial action?
UCU – University and College Union. A Union of Academics & University staff with branches in many Universities & Colleges across the UK. The Queen Mary branch balloted (voted) to take industrial action.

Industrial Action – Any form of protest or action by employees against their employers, this can take many forms. 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.  UCU have chosen to hold a strike during the dates mentioned above. In addition to this they will also take “action short of a strike”. They’ve explained this as “working strictly to contract, not covering for absent colleagues and refusing to reschedule lectures lost to strike action”, this may continue to April 2020.

Strike – A strike is when employees stop working until their employers meet certain demands. The staff who have chosen to strike will probably picket (protest and ask people not enter the University) at the entrances of the University.

Why are they doing this? – Staff are striking over pensions and fair pay. See the article here.
What effect will this have on me as a student?
Any of the courses you are on that have staff that are striking will not perform any of their job requirements during the strike dates. This will probably mean those classes they are due to teach are cancelled, examinations are invigilated by other people or moved, and deadlines will still be in place but marking for all assessments for the modules affected are likely to be delayed. You should contact your schools to find out what their policies are on all of the above and what they are doing to mitigate the effect on students if they have not already emailed you.

We understand that many students will be concerned about the impact this strike will have on their education, including exams and assessments. We will email you on November 20th with a more comprehensive guide on what to do if you are affected by the strikes.
What is the Students’ Union doing?
At the Annual Student Meeting students voted for the Students’ Union to lobby the University to protect grade results during the strike. You can find a copy of the motion here. This means we will:
  • Lobby the University Management to extend deadlines and offer grade-boosts for assignments affected.
  • Lobby the University to secure the best possible deal for students.
  • Complain to the University Management of any nonchalant treatment of students with all complaints being made public.
  • Encourage students to email the principal directly to receive the answers to any questions they need answering. We are doing this now and you can contact him at principal@qmul.ac.uk.
  • Inform students they can contact their schools to find out what their policies are for assessments during the strike period. We have done this above.
Outside of the motion, we as Executive Officers have also resolved to:
  • Attend any emergency welfare meetings for students held by the University Management.
  • Lobby the University Management & UCU to keep the library open and allow students to access it as well as all University welfare services.
  • Keep all Students’ Union spaces open and lobby UCU to allow students to access these.
  • Lobby UCU to have a reduced presence at one entrance to allow students to access the Advice & Counselling service without intimidation.
Is the Students’ Union supporting UCU?
We knew a ballot was out from UCU to carry out industrial action and this was going to close on October 31st. We assumed that the strikes would take place in January in time for exam marking times to be affected. We suspect the announcement of the General Election (taking place on 12th December) changed this, and UCU decided to strike in time for the Election to act as a greater lobbying force. Regardless of the assumptions, we were planning to hold a referendum as soon as a date was confirmed. Unfortunately, due to the timeframe we must work to in our bye-laws and the immediacy of the strikes, we cannot give enough notice for the vote to take place before the strikes.

As such, the only option open to us to pass policy in support (or lack thereof) is via Student Council on November 19th. You can read the proposed motion for Student Council here. This needs to be submitted by Tuesday 12th November which I will do at the last minute so if you wish to second it please email me on su-president@qmul.ac.uk by 5pm on Tuesday November 12th.

After that, the motions for Student Council will be published on Wednesday. I have asked the Chair to extend the deadline for amendments to up to 1 hour before Student Council which he has agreed to do. That means you will have until 5pm of the day of Student Council to submit any amendments. The process on how to do this can be found here.

Student Council is taking place Tuesday November 19th at 6pm in Blomeley Rooms 1 & 2 of the Students’ Union Hub. Any student can speak at Student Council however only elected student representatives can vote. Please come and make your voice heard. If you are unable to attend we encourage you to lobby your representative as to which way they should vote. Please be civil as the reps are students just like you. You can find their email addresses here. You can email more than 1 rep that is relevant to you.

Please note the four of us Executive Officers cannot vote at Student Council but we are happy to answer any questions you have. Your Course Reps do not sit on Student Council so are not able to vote at the meeting; therefore please do not email them.
We will send an email to all students on Wednesday November 20th making you aware of the result of the vote. We will also advise students at this time what to do if you are affected by the strike action.

A guide to Student Council can be found here.
How do I make my voice heard?

We are opening an online feedback form to all students so you can tell us what you think about the strikes and what our position should be as a Students’ Union. The feedback collected will be anonymous and passed on to your elected representatives so please make sure you get in touch and tell them what they should do. Please provide your feedback by Friday 15th November so it can be considered by Student Council.

You can also come along to the Student Council meeting being held at 6pm, Tuesday 12th November in Blomeley Rooms 1 & 2 in the Students’ Union Hub.
Submit your feedback here