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Strong action

Queen Mary University of London, a member of the prestigious Russell Group, has been branded the “worst university employer in the UK” after it withheld 100% of the wages of staff taking part in a national marking boycott in protest at pay and working conditions.

The University and College Union (UCU) says more than 100 staff members at Queen Mary were left panicking about how to pay rent and bills this month after the university deducted full pay for 21 days in their July pay cheques, because they refused to mark students’ work in June. The union says many staff opened payslips with nothing in them, although they still carried out the “vast majority” of their duties including teaching and research. The university is threatening 100% deductions for partial work again in August.

Strong and welcome action we might say.

17 thoughts on “Strong action”

  1. It’s a shame that other universities didn’t do the same.

    Not marking students’ work is a pretty scummy act.

  2. I am astounded that someone undertaking job action thinks they should still get a full pay packet. These people are obviously too stupid teach at any level, aren’t they? Fire them all, and note them as permanently unacceptable.

  3. Anon,

    It’s not up to them to decide which parts of their job requirements they are prepared to fulfil. Partial payment establishes that right. Far better to say that employees must carry out all duties or not get paid.

  4. Off topic….

    Poor old Spud. He caught Covid (for about the 15th time).

    “I had not expected the fatigue to continue as it has.”

    A concerned colleague of mine has asked:

    “Do you think this is because you’re old and fat?”.

    I wonder if Spud will respond.

  5. If I didn’t do part of my job, I would get a written warning and doing it repeatedly would lead to dismissal. They are getting let off lightly.

  6. Many moons ago when British Rail ran things, our depot instituted a work to rule as part of a local dispute. This caused no end of problems. As he signed on duty, one of my colleagues was asked, “are you going to work to rule?”.
    He replied “tell me which clauses in the rule book you want me to ignore”.

    Reminds me of the stories of British POW’s buggering up the Nazi’s by doing everything they were told to do, not what the Jerries wanted them to do.

  7. This action is akin to the employees in a store doing the cleaning and stocking the shelves, but not unlocking the door for the customers. They appear to have forgotten that the students are the customer. Happens a lot in academia.

  8. “ although they still carried out the “vast majority” of their duties including teaching”

    In June?

  9. @DocBud – “Partial payment establishes that right.”

    No, It doesn’t. Work done must be paid for. If you get someone to clean your house’s windows and they miss one you can’t refuse to pay anything. You might negotiate a mutually agreed discount, but you cannot do it unilaterally. The university needs to pay for work done and then follow disciplinary procedures for any further sanction. Generally, it is unlawful for an employer to make unilateral deductions from wages, however it’s possible that a court might order an employee to pay some form of compensation if the employer has been caused a loss (which, I think, in this case would be very difficult to prove).

  10. Which is excellent. Because it means there’s already a system to sort this out and we don’t need to worry about it, doesn’t it?

  11. @ Charles
    The employees failing to mark papers are in breach of contract.
    Therefore they have no right to claim for payment for the work (if any) that they have deigned to carry out [obviously not teaching after the exams, so I wonder what they have done, but that’s irrelevant] since the payment is one of the terms of the contract that they have broken.
    Boris wants to have his cake and eat it, you want to eat your cake and still have it afterwards.

  12. Bloke in North Dorset

    “ They are doing 90% of their job and getting zero. Hence the beef.”

    Marking exams tells the lecturer that they’ve imparted knowledge successfully or not and lets the student know how much they’ve learned and in which areas the need to concentrate. Without that information the teaching was worthless.

    You can watch YouTube videos on most subjects for free (OK, you are the product) but you don’t get that valuable feedback.

  13. Charles,

    If a university pays a partial payment for reduced work, it establishes two things, the value of the work not done and that the employee can choose not to do all their work and still get paid.

    What the universities should have done is said from the outset that the options are that you 100% fulfil your contract and get paid 100%, or you 0% fulfil it and get paid 0%. Failure to carry out certain duties should be interpreted as having chosen the latter option.

  14. It would seem to me that marking exams is the critical part of the job. The students go to university to get a qualification. Otherwise there’d be no need for universities (They’re the ones insist on the monopoly) So if the student doesn’t qualify, there’s no point in them having gone.
    So zero pay & sue them for the total of the student loans. Actually, you can sell off their children into slavery, both born & unborn, as well if you like.

  15. @Tim Worstall – “there’s already a system to sort this out”

    Yes, indeed. The employees should go to an emplyment tribunal (quickly – you only have three months to do this).

    @DocBud – “partial payment for reduced work, … establishes … that the employee can choose not to do all their work”

    Only if that is the only action taken. Generally, the employee can additionally be subjected to disciplinary procedures, though there is an exception for legitimate strikes. In the case of strikes, yes they can choose not to do all their work and that right is set out in legislation.

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