Queen Mary uni protest. Photo: Nandi
Queen Mary uni protest. Photo: Nandi

Bea Gardner, UCU member

The University and College Union (UCU) offices at Queen Mary University (QM) were recently broken into by security who forcibly removed UCU posters displaying solidarity with Palestine (see ‘Gaza – Queen Mary uni management orders break-in of union office’).

The raid is a blatant attack on the right of trade unions to independently organise. It is censorship of the UCU’s democratic decision to protest the onslaught in Gaza.

Hostile management

QM management has a hostile approach toward the unions, and was one of those imposing a 100% dock in UCU members’ pay for participating in last summer’s marking boycott.

As well as attempting to attack workers’ rights with ‘minimum service levels’ anti-strike laws, and the right to protest over Gaza, the Tories have made freedom of speech on campuses a flashpoint with the Higher Education (Freedom of Speech) Act.

In reality, they mean freedom of speech for the bosses, warmongers and their defenders. They are attempting to assert authority within universities, particularly over left-wing students who are increasingly critical of big business influence in education. That now includes anger at the cosy relationship many universities have with the arms industry and their investment links with Israel.

UCU’s ‘Exposed’ campaign is directed at this divisive interference. However, to date the campaign has been limited primarily to an online webpage. Attacks such as on QM UCU demonstrate the need to actively mobilise to defend members’ rights, and to campaign for unity between staff and students. While the UCU general secretary has made some critical comments on X/Twitter, to date there has been no official statement condemning this incident.

National demo

Socialist Party members call on the leadership of UCU, as well as the self-described  ‘democratic socialist’ Aspire-led Tower Hamlets council where QM is located, to condemn the actions of QM management. UCU and the wider union movement must make a robust response.  We demand the leadership calls a national demonstration in defence of QM UCU and against the ongoing attacks to trade union organising rights and freedom of speech. See socialistparty.org.uk for a model motion for union branches and trades councils.