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Queen Mary University threatens to close course to ‘punish’ staff for industrial action, union charges

“VINDICTIVE and anti-worker” bosses at a major university in London’s East End were slammed today for threatening to close a course as punishment for staff taking industrial action.

In internal emails sent last weekend, Colin Bailey, principal at Queen Mary, University of London, said the institution’s film studies degree programme was at risk if staff did not abandon an ongoing marking boycott, the University and College Union (UCU) charged.  

The threat, which the union described as “potentially unlawful,” has led to employees in the affected department signing an open letter condemning management’s “relentless hostility.”

Bosses are already planning to withhold 100 per cent pay for 42 days from workers taking part in the “lawful, democratically agreed” marking boycott, stressed the UCU, which also accused the university of seeking agency staff to break the action. 

The boycott, which is being replicated at many institutions nationwide, comes after a 35 per cent cut in the university superannuation pension scheme and a massive decline in real terms pay of a quarter since 2010.

The union, which is set to hold another national strike ballot in September, reiterated its warning that the “arrogance and cruelty of university employers is imperilling the future” of British higher education. 

General secretary Jo Grady said Mr Bailey’s latest threat “cements the university’s status as one of the most vindictive and anti-worker employers in the country.

“It is also a direct attack on the education of students. Senior management should feel nothing but shame and must immediately withdraw their threats.

“While Bailey draws an eye-watering £315,000 plus salary and lives it up, rent-free, in a £1,000,000 university-owned apartment, he launches attack after attack on staff.”

A university spokesperson said: “While only a very small number of courses are impacted by this action, it is hugely unfair that any student’s education should be compromised as a result.

“We respect colleagues’ right to strike, and we acknowledge the issues behind the national dispute. Equally, when accepting students onto the small number of affected courses, we must also consider our duty to ensure all our students receive the support and education they deserve.”

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