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Students of the largest London university were urged to “reach out” to the striking teachers | Industrial action

Prestigious London The university became the first in the country to use a “student whistleblower form” to encourage students to report striking employees, threatening to pay them in full for 39 days if they don’t make up missed classes.

Queen Mary University of London was named “the UK’s worst university employer” by the Universities and Colleges Union last July after it took 21 days’ full pay from more than 100 staff who refused to mark student work in June as part of a national boycott. But staff say the university, a member of the respected Russell Group, has reached a new low and “destroyed trust” by “turning students into spies” to collect data on who was on strike in November and February and which classes were not held. rescheduled.

Lale Khalili, professor of international politics at the university, posted an angry resignation statement on Twitter late last month claiming that senior management had made the working life of scientists “unbearably difficult”. The “last straw”, she said, was the “odious” student reporting, which union members refer to as the “student knocker”.

Professor Lale Khalili: The student reporting form has become the “last straw”.

Professor Khalili said she had received messages of support from outraged scientists around the world. “To me, this tactic is just cruel,” she added. “I’m generally a very quiet person, but I couldn’t keep quiet any longer.”

One union member at the university, who asked not to be named for fear of reprisal, said: “Last week I had a student who got into trouble and said, ‘I filled in this absence form and I didn’t realize I was going to be responsible for the fee being deducted. from my teacher.”

The academic added: “They didn’t have the data to make their payment, so they are trying to turn students into spies. It destroys the trust you need in the classroom.”

A senior manager at the university, who also spoke on condition of anonymity, said the university was asking line managers to validate the information gathered by the student questionnaire and “tap colleagues on the back”.

The manager said: “It’s absolutely horrible. These are people I know and love, and they’re going to be on the payroll. I think a lot about resignation. I only stay because I think then at least I can try to help those who are being targeted.”

The university says internally that despite being released just before the latest walkouts, the uniform is not motivated by strikes. However, the minutes of last year’s industrial action strategy group meetings that have seen The observerto confirm that it was developing a “reporting tool” to record “missed learning opportunities in the event of further mass action.”

The university and the Colleges Union suspended the latest round of university strikes on February 17, despite opposition from many of its members, to allow intensive negotiations with employers after “significant progress” was made on issues including pay, pensions and no-hours contracts.

But a handful of universities, including the University of Leeds, are threatening to continue paying pay beyond the actual strike days unless staff back down and reschedule missed classes.

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After three days of strike action in November, QMUL told union members it would pay 100% of pay for the 39 days between November and January in which it said classes could have been rescheduled. Chloe Wallace, associate professor of law at Leeds and president of its UCU branch, said: “The university authorities formalized a threat to withdraw 100 per cent of fees from when they said classes were due to be rescheduled.”

She added that it is up to school leaders to do this and “my impression is that most are very reluctant to do it”. She said staff were very stressed at the idea of ​​losing significant wages and those without family support having to borrow.

Vicky Blake, UCU national president until last year, said: “UCU members are not paid when we go on strike and it is truly appalling that some university management teams are using the threat of extra penalty charges to try to force members not to take part.”

QMUL said it was “consistently clear” that once striking staff returned they were asked to “prioritise all educational activities”, de-prioritising other work such as research where necessary. It said: “We allow staff sufficient time to make up missed educational activities. If this is not achieved, we consider this to be partial performance and will calculate payment accordingly.” The student statement read: “As with many other universities, we ask staff and students to let us know when tuition is missed so that we can ensure it is made up.”

A University of Leeds spokesman said: “The university’s priority is to minimize the impact of the protests on our students. In cases where strikes affect teaching activities, the rescheduling of these activities should be a priority.” He said the position is in line with the recommendations of the Association of University and College Employers.


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