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February 9, 2014

Why I will be on strike tomorrow

by Jess Guth

I’ve had a number of questions from students about the next UCU strike called for tomorrow and also quite a lot of complaints about the fact that teaching will be cancelled. I therefore think it is worth setting out here why I support the UCU action. I have to admit that when initially thinking about it, going on strike over pay didn’t sit easily. I’m well paid, a lot of academic are. But here’s why supporting the action is important and why the action is about so much more than just pay. You can see all the facts and figures on the UCU website.

I struggled to articulate exactly why I think this strike action is important until I read the blog ‘What I wanted to Say on the Picket Line‘ by Johnny Unger. In the blog post he says

‘I’m not striking because I want more money, I’m striking because I am disgusted with the inequality in the sector, with VCs often earning more than 20 times what the lowest paid earn, and because I am deeply concerned by the ongoing marketisation and commercialisation of education.’

And that’s exactly it. I’m not after more money either, I’m after fairness within and across institutions. I want workloads, management structures, organisational strucutres, process and policies which allow us to fully support our students and conduct research and which recognise academic freedom in both of those arenas and I want hourly paid staff, graduate teaching assistants, casual staff, admin staff and academics fairly and adequately rewarded and senior management pay has to remain in proportion to what everyone else earns otherwise it cannot possibly be fair.

And to those students of mine who are still annoyed I won’t be teaching tomorrow and also won’t be rescheduling the cancelled classes – read the materials on the UCU website, read some of the blogs out there, follow #fairpayinHE on twitter and see what you think then. UCU called a 2 hour strike for tomorrow which actually wouldn’t have impacted on my teaching  but as Bradford University has decided to dock a full day’s pay for 2 hour strike action, and UCU in response has escalated the action, I will be on strike all day. Feel free to complain to the VC or Director of HR about this one. Equally though I’m happy to talk about it when I see you later in the week or in next week’s seminars. I may not be able to articulate fully why this is so important, but it is.

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