Queen Mary job losses provoke industrial action

Queen Mary, University of London, could see strike action within a month after members of the University and College Union voted to take industrial action over a redundancy scheme at two of the college's schools.

October 4, 2012

The UCU announced on 28 September that 211 (65 per cent) of the 325 members who participated in the ballot endorsed strike action over the use of what union officials have called "crude metrics" - such as number of papers published and amount of research income brought in - to identify staff for redundancy.

According to the union, around 20 academics from Queen Mary's School of Medicine and Dentistry and 11 from its School of Chemical and Biological Sciences are being made redundant in a drive to improve research performance and address the former's financial deficit.

Other academics have been moved on to teaching-only contracts.

The ballot, which had a response rate of 55 per cent, also saw 81 per cent of the UCU members who voted endorse industrial action short of a strike. The precise action to be undertaken was due to be decided at a meeting this week.

Union officials have admitted that it may be too late to reverse many of the redundancies. One researcher who has lost his post - Fanis Missirlis, an outspoken critic of the whole redundancy process - was due to have his appeal heard earlier this week.

But there is hope that the industrial action will send a strong enough message to management that some decisions will be reversed - particularly those regarding the academics induced to remain at Queen Mary on temporary contracts to provide teaching cover.

The union also hopes that the vote will persuade college management to negotiate over a planned new performance assessment regime for academics across the Faculty of Science and Engineering that is based on similar metrics to the redundancy programme.

A Queen Mary spokesman said it was currently discussing a "redundancy avoidance policy" with all the unions and so it was "disappointed" that the UCU had called a ballot as "progress is still being made".

paul.jump@tsleducation.com.

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