Please see below our reply to Principal Professor Bailey’s communication about UCU strike action. QMUL initially agreed and then refused (after seeing the content) our “right of reply”:
Subject: RE: Message from the Principal: Industrial action Dated: 08/11/2019
Right of Reply
Dear Principal, QMSET, QM staff and students,
Thank you for the right to reply to the email from Professor Bailey (below), that was sent to all QM staff on 8th November, and similarly all students. This email appears to reflect the template published by UCEA, rather than a specific QM approach. Nonetheless, we welcome Prof Bailey’s recognition that union members do not take industrial action unless driven to it by despair of achieving change any other way.
Elsewhere, the email is extremely misleading.
Most employees of QM were not eligible to vote, so presenting numbers in this way verges on deliberate obfuscation. Of those who voted, 80% supported industrial action. This should not be swept under the table as university leaders are attempting to do.
Our disputes relate to a number of issues which affect staff more broadly:
- The continuing attempts to dismantle our pension scheme – USS – by increasing contributions unnecessarily and in contravention of the views of top pension experts appointed by both UCU and the employers.
- Pay: in London where inflation is higher than the rest of the country, the value of our salaries has fallen by between a fifth and a quarter in the last 10 years while senior pay continues to rise rapidly. Even the employers admit to a 17% fall in real wages nationally! In the past year, inflation was around 2% while pension contributions rose by a further 1.6%. This means a loss of 3.6% while employers offered only 1.8%. The attempt to muddy waters by including the increments that some members of staff receive for other reasons or by emphasising the attempts to mitigate the pay of the very low-paid is disingenuous and knowingly so.
- Gender pay gap. Why should women take home less than men? While it is good that the Principal recognises that pay inequalities for women and BAME staff cannot be justified, QM has not taken concrete steps to address the problems raised with them over a number of years. Task and finish groups are an inadequate response to such fundamental, structural issues.
- Again, we are pleased that the Principal recognises that workloads are rising for all staff and that this has an impact on the wellbeing of all staff. He does not appear to be taking any measures to cut them.
- The figures presented in the Principal’s email appear to miss out the majority of staff on casual contracts at QM and so present a very partial view of what is happening. We are very concerned on the insecurity generated by the unnecessary use of such contracts and the effect on staff workloads and student experiences at QM.
These issues affect almost all staff and students in one way or another. The overwhelming majority of those who voted for industrial action are therefore taking action on behalf of everyone.
Yet this strike and the action short of a strike that will follow can still be averted. As a member of UCEA (the employers’ association) the Principal could seek to persuade them to return to the table. He could be arguing for better pay and conditions, and better pensions, for all QM staff. Students (and the NUS) appreciate that a disillusioned staff cannot deliver high quality teaching, especially if they are continually being asked to deliver more.
QMUCU calls on Professor Bailey to retract this email, and support QM staff the sake of QM as an institution, for the sake of all staff and, most of all, for the sake of our students.