Unite members at Queen’s University Belfast Students’ Union (QUBSU) are celebrating a major victory in their impressive, seven-week-long campaign for respect and pay justice. The campaign developed after workers on zero-hour, casual contracts were left without pay since August as a result of the refusal of university authorities to enroll them on the government Job Retention Scheme (JRS).
Queen’s University now joins Glasgow and Manchester in locking down halls of residence due to Covid-19 outbreaks. Within the first week of the university term, 30 students in Elms Village in south Belfast have tested positive for the virus. Fears of rising infection rates and the limitations of health and safety measures have been ignored by management in favour of forcing lecturers, support staff and students to participate in in-person classes without a uniform policy of sanitisation, mask-wearing and social distancing.
It was recently revealed that Queen’s University Belfast performed ‘aversion therapy’ on gay students during the 1960s in an effort to produce ‘heterosexual interest’. After one victim spoke out, a Queen’s spokesperson expressed regret for the university’s role in this damaging treatment. This is simply too little too late for the many vulnerable people that have already suffered.
Only two days into 14 days of planned strike action by academic staff in Queen’s University, the University of Ulster and 59 universities across Britain and the front page headline of the Times ran “University chiefs split as strikes cause chaos!” Some university bosses went so far as to publicly criticise the plans to scrap defined benefit pensions and declared support for the strike.