Queen Mary strike called off

A planned strike today at Queen Mary, University of London, over the method by which academics are assessed was called off yesterday after the institution committed in writing to negotiate over any changes.

November 22, 2012

The University and College Union called for the strike late last week after it said Queen Mary management had failed to provide written confirmation of its verbal commitment to negotiate any changes to existing appraisal methods.

The UCU's concerns were raised after a new performance management regime was piloted in the institution's Faculty of Science and Engineering, which assessed academics against a series of metrics relating to teaching scores and research output and income.

The metrics are similar to those used during a controversial restructuring exercises at two Queen Mary schools that saw nearly 50 academics deemed "at risk" of redundancy earlier this year.

According to a UCU spokesman, the union was concerned that the use of metrics in performance management "will have the same results in terms of what we regard as targeting people for redundancy".

He said Queen Mary's management "keep sticking to point that we are asking for a veto over what goes on in a conversation between a line manager and an individual, but we aren't. It is not about us saying what the precise criteria should be and we aren't ruling out that people will make a commitment to do certain things.

"But we want people to be judged as individuals and for there to be a two-way conversation rather than arbitrary targets being imposed that will undermine academic freedom and make Queen Mary a factory rather than a place of academic research."

He said the threat of strike action had been instrumental in forcing Queen Mary to make a written commitment to negotiate.

However, an email from Queen Mary UCU to its members notes that the concession "does not guarantee a victorious outcome in an appropriate scheme emerging", and warned that further industrial action could be necessary.

In a statement issued after the strike was called off Queen Mary says: "We expect that all activities will continue as normal, including lectures and tutorials, and staff and students should come on to campus as usual.

"Queen Mary has agreed with all recognised trade unions a timetable of discussions to review the university's appraisal scheme for staff and negotiate any successor scheme."

Prior to the cancellation of the strike it explained that, with regard to academics, it wanted "to maintain the flexibility on performance to meet with changing external drivers such as funding requirements and research assessments".

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