We deeply regret university management’s failure of vision and of nerve – UCU@GCU

Vision by Nick Youngson CC BY-SA 3.0 Pix4free amended by UCU@GCU

Glasgow Caledonian university branch of the UCU today expressed their deep disappointment with GCU management for what the branch see as a failure of vision and of nerve.  This follows the management declining to take what the branch had seen as a helpful approach within the current stage of the marking and assessment boycott.

Two weeks ago, Queen Margaret University (Edinburgh) decided to remove their punitive deductions for those taking part in the MAB from  100% to zero, on the basis of staff involved accepting alternative non-marking work. 

For almost a week, the UCU officers at GCU have been waiting for a GCU management response to the request that a similar approach might be adopted here. Currently staff taking part in the MAB will have 30 percent of their salary deducted for three weeks.

One of the reasons eventually given for  rejecting the UCU suggestion was (in the words of the management spokesperson)  ‘many of [the Executive Board] felt this was too late given where we are in the marking and assessment period. It was felt that to change the rules midway through this period of assessment would be unfair to those who have picked up additional marking’.

We do not believe the Executive Board are talking in the name of those still currently marking.

None of those involved in the marking boycott have at any time heard staff who are not involved arguing that they would feel better if the reward for them marking was that those not marking should be penalised by thirty percent of their salary being deducted.

The logic of our request to follow the position of Queen Margaret University was simple however, and we believed fair. 

We are the University for the Common Good (Queen Margaret are not, yet they are acting perhaps as if they were).

The lack of logic in the deductions being imposed is the following. Currently a member of staff at GCU who refuses to mark two dissertations, can have 30 percent of their wages deducted for three weeks, while similarly a member declining to mark say 80 essays suffers the same penalty.

This is based on the view of staff actions being ‘partial performance’ yet there is no logic as to where the figure of 30 percent comes from. We will be asking any staff affected to request the basis upon which the calculation of their partial performance was carried out.

In reality none of the staff undertaking the MAB are doing less than 100 percent work – although it may not include marking. Workload has been an issue here for years with the student staff ratio the third highest in the whole country.

Given that 30 percent of our salary will be withheld, then the logic of this position would be that our staff, should work out what thirty percent of their workload is in reality and just not carry it out, given that they are already being penalised blindly for this. However, the union are aiming to be the adults in the room here.

This approach from management really is not what a university for the common good should be implementing. 

Our branch had circulated a draft critique of how the operation of a marking and assessment boycott was being acted upon in terms of how students were marked. We had asked for comments on this from the Executive Board

At the request of management we delayed issuing this ‘until the Executive Board made a statement on the unions suggestions regarding the marking and assessment boycott’. This time has now come and passed and no comments have been made on our draft statement on the integrity of the marking process under the MAB, and therefore the statement is being issued to students currently.

We also suggested to the Executive Board that together with us, they might follow the example of the University of Cambridge and Cambridge UCU, in issuing a joint statement asking for UCEA to return to the negotiating table. We believe this is also in line with the actions of a university for the common good, but there has been no response on this.

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