Universities face backlash after threat to dock pay of striking staff

Thousands of university staff recently went on strike, however these staff are being threatened with pay docking.

Lyndsey Sleator
12th December 2022
Image Credit: Twitter (@ucu)
After historic UCU strikes in November seeing over 70,000 staff and students at picket lines across the UK, Queen Mary University London (QMUL) and Wolverhampton University have threatened striking staff with the docking of 100% of their pay unless they reschedule missed teaching.

Striking staff expect to have their pay docked for the three days of scheduled striking. However, this further blow in the face of the current cost of living crisis has been described by the UCU General Secretary, Jo Grady, as an attempt to intimidate staff from taking industrial action.

One lecturer at Queen Mary’s told The Guardian that this further threat of pay uncertainty is entirely demoralising and could have long-lasting impacts on staff wellbeing. In the current economic situation, staff cannot afford to not get paid and an academic at Wolverhampton remarked that “it could knock people off the edge."

This further threat of pay uncertainty is entirely demoralising and could have long-lasting impacts on staff wellbeing

Both universities have told union members that failure to reschedule missed teaching will be viewed as a breach of contract and as a result, pay will be deducted from staff for “partial performance”. Academics across the country agree that conceding this threat would undermine the entire premise of the strike itself.

Many students however have been worried about the impact on their studies of this missed teaching. NUSU found that 39% of students do not support the strikes. So, it can be said that many of the student body would want this missed teaching to be rescheduled. Student anger is entirely justified after months of online teaching and COVID disruption in 2020/21, however, the focus should be on future resolution for the benefit of both staff and students rather than continued conflict arising from further damaging threats such as these.

Many students however have been worried about the impact on their studies of this missed teaching

This issue of threatening staff into giving up their right to industrial action is not a new tactic by QMUL. in July the university deducted 21 days of pay from more than 100 staff who refused to mark students' work in June. This further threat is therefore a very real one to those staff who opened empty payslips in July- but morale is reported to be higher than ever.

"We are going nowhere" states UCU. And with the recent news of upcoming negotiations between now and 31 January 2023 to resolve pay for 2022/23 and 2023/24, we can only hope that progress will be made for the good of both students and staff struggling through these harsh winter months.

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