Queen Mary staff plan to sue university over ‘dangerous’ pay deductions for marking boycott

Some staff report receiving negative paychecks with the UCU calling the action a ‘dangerous’ precedent

Queen Mary University has followed through with threats to deduct over 100 days of pay from staff who participated in strike action, with deductions even being made from those who have handed in all their marks.

Some lecturers who fulfilled all their work duties apart from marking have had a 100 per cent pay deduction for each day of the marking boycott.

QM-UCU reports that its members are planning to challenge the university’s severe pay policy in court.

Due to the marking and assignment boycott over the 2023 summer, many students started their year at QMUL without knowing if they had passed the previous one.

Even with most marks returned, QMUL docked the pay for each day that lecturers did not return their marked work, because they did not fulfil all of their duties.

One lecturer noted on X (formerly Twitter) that some staff even face negative pay checks. 

The UCU claims that the measures taken by QMUL are some of the harshest sanctions by any university in the UK over this recent series of strikes.

A UCU spokesperson said: “We have multiple colleagues who work at other London universities as well and participated in the Marking Boycott and the strikes there, but do not dare to do so at QMUL because of how punitive QMUL is”

QM-UCU also suggested that individual members are planning legal action in response to the pay deductions. 

A spokesperson said: “Individual members are going to employment tribunal, and we’re preparing civil law cases – that takes months and years, and the Principal and Deputy Principal know that; they’re weaponising time.”

Despite union members expecting a court challenge to be lengthy and arduous, they appear indignant.

The UCU insisted: “We’re not giving up, as this precedent is dangerous for workers across the UK in any sector, and we cannot let this stand in the long term. We’re challenging this via the legal route.

Queen Mary contends that the measures only affect a minority of staff.

A Queen Mary spokesperson said: “Less than one per cent of Queen Mary staff took industrial action over the summer, which resulted in disruption to under two per cent of our final-year graduating students who were studying English and Drama.

“From the outset of the industrial action, we have been clear that our first priority is to protect and deliver our students’ education and experience over all other activities carried out at the university, to ensure that we fulfil our moral and regulatory requirements.

“We do not withhold pay from staff so long as they deliver all their core planned educational activities. Teaching and assessment are priority contractual activities for university staff, and we withhold pay for staff who do not carry out these core activities due to industrial action.

“Similar to other universities, students are asked to highlight when planned teaching does not take place, for any reason, so that we can ensure any missed teaching is made up and delivered at an alternative time. Students are not asked to report lecturers for striking. To suggest so is simply wrong.

“Two agreements were reached between Queen Mary University and the local UCU branch, over the last 18 months of industrial action, including a 21 per cent increase in London weighting pay.  Unfortunately, these agreements did not stop subsequent industrial action being taken.”

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