Queen Mary staff threatened with 100 per cent pay deduction for striking

The uni will dock all pay ‘indefinitely’ unless missed classes are rescheduled

Queen Mary has threatened to dock all pay of striking workers “indefinitely” unless they make up for learning that was missed due to strikes.

University staff nationwide of the Universities and Colleges Union (UCU) went on strike for three days in November over demands on pay, pensions and working conditions.

It is normal and expected to have pay docked for days that staff are striking, but the threat to dock pay indefinitely is uncommon.

Talking to the Observer, co-chair of the Queen Mary UCU branch Dr Zara Dinnen said: “The impact of having no pay now, during a cost-of-living crisis, would be devastating for people. Many members here are already using credit cards and loans to get by.”

Two striking staff from Queen Mary told The London Tab at the UCU rally in London last Wednesday that there was confusion about the uni’s new threat to deduct their pay.

They claimed that multiple emails were sent with changing wording, leading to a situation where staff were unsure of what they needed to do. One lecturer described it as “arbitrary,” which made it “even more scary because it’s left up to individual line manager’s interpretation.”

One lecturer said she knew staff had decided to strike because of the threat of pay cuts.

She added: “The main reason I’m striking is [Queen Mary] can’t treat people like this. They have a duty of care to their staff, and they have failed that duty of care really badly.

“No one should end up with a paycheck of zero pounds,” she said.

The UCU had previously accused Queen Mary of a “vindictive attack” after more than 100 staff who participated in a marking boycott this summer had their pay deducted for 21 days.

A lecturer from Queen Mary’s linguistics department told The London Tab they participated in the marking boycott and claimed 100 per cent of their pay was deducted “even though [they] continued teaching and researching.”

The lecturer said actions by upper management felt like “gaslighting and bullying.”

When asked for comment, a Queen Mary, University of London spokesperson said: “Our position on pay deductions for industrial action is in line with national guidance from the Universities and Colleges Employers’ Association and consistent with UCU’s own advice to its members.

“From the outset of the continual industrial action, our overriding priority has been to protect our students’ education. Previously, staff have often taken strike action only on the days that coincided with their teaching duties. We have been clear in asking staff when they return to work to prioritise all educational activities and deprioritise or stop all other work where needed, including research, conferences and sabbaticals, which we accept will be disruptive for the University.

“We give staff who have taken strike action sufficient time to make up for missed educational activities, and where this is not achieved we consider that partial performance and will deduct pay accordingly. We have not and will not deduct pay for anyone who does not breach their contract.”

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• Staff at more than 30 London unis to strike for three days at the end of November

‘We need education to change’: The head of UCU on how the strikes are affecting students

‘Unite and fight’: We spoke to students and staff at UCU’s ‘biggest ever strike rally’