QM UCU GM votes for a strike ballot

On 29 May, Queen Mary UCU held a General Meeting to discuss the ongoing threat of redundancies and imposed performance management. There was a record turnout. The following motions were passed virtually unanimously, indicating that the membership wanted to have a ballot on industrial action. This was really an expression of the strength of feeling among members, since the branch executive did not actively advocate any particular course of action but simply outlined the facts and options and said it would respond to members’ wishes. A large number of members also volunteered to join an active campaign to save jobs and fend off imposed, rolling performance management. This will enable, if necessary, a campaign of rolling, targeted strikes to cause maximum disruption to the institution. A ballot is likely in the summer, meaning industrial action would commence from September.

This latest step comes on the heels of repeated protests, efforts to provide alternatives, disgusted messages from leading scholars worldwide, student complaints, and so on. At every stage we have hoped that management would pause, listen and engage constructively instead of simply railroading ahead without altering their plans in any significant way. We reaffirm that hope that now, so that industrial action need not be necessary. No academic or academic-related staff members relish the prospect of strike action. Organising such action is distracting, costly, and very disruptive to the activities we cherish, notably the education of our students, whom we care about very deeply. The vote on 29 May therefore signalled the extent to which other options have been exhausted, leaving us with few alternatives. QM UCU urges managers to recognise the seriousness of the situation and engage with us in a conciliatory spirit, willing to make genuine concessions rather than just going through pro forma consultations merely to meet legal requirements.

Motion 1

Queen Mary UCU condemns unequivocally the current managerial approach at Queen Mary. This approach aims to boost Queen Mary’s standing in the league tables by attacking and intimidating staff and worsening their terms and conditions, while sidelining and ignoring their trade union representatives. Queen Mary managers have restructured 17 departments and Schools resulting in large-scale redundancies in Biological and Chemical Sciences and Medicine and Dentistry. They have failed to engage meaningfully with alternative proposals put forward by staff and UCU that would have saved jobs and safeguarded students’ education. Management are also seeking to impose, without consultation with UCU, a system of rolling performance management (the ‘Contribution and Development Review’) which will undermine collegiality and seeks to frighten staff into working even harder than they currently do by using crude metrics to assess them.

Queen Mary UCU calls on management to:

  1. Halt the programme of redundancies and engage with staff to pursue alternative ways to reduce costs whilst safeguarding academic provision.
  2. Negotiate with campus trade unions a redundancy avoidance agreement, as recently proposed by UCU.
  3. Negotiate any performance management system with trade union representatives before implementing it, whether in trial form or otherwise.

Motion 2

Queen Mary UCU notes:

  1. The refusal of Queen Mary managers to reduce redundancies associated with imposed restructuring of academic schools and other departments, even when presented with alternative solutions that could improve outcomes whilst safeguarding jobs.
  2. The refusal of Queen Mary managers to halt the imposition of a ‘trial’ performance management system despite the fact that this changes staff terms and conditions and has not been negotiated with UCU.
  3. The failure of the dispute resolution procedures contained in the QM-UCU Recognition Agreement to resolve these issues, which formed the basis of a formal Trade Dispute declared in March 2012.

Given management’s intransigent position, Queen Mary UCU resolves:

  1. To request that UCU’s national Higher Education Committee authorise a ballot on industrial action. QM UCU members should be balloted on
    (a) strike action and
    (b) action short of a strike.
  2. The goal of industrial action is
    (a) to force management to negotiate a robust redundancy avoidance procedure with UCU and
    (b) to force management to negotiate with UCU any performance management system they wish to introduce.
  3. To boycott the proposed performance management scheme (aka “CADre”: Contribution and Development Review) in pilot or any other form unless it has been agreed by UCU.
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