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May 26, 2016

Thanks from the picket line and the sofa

by Jess Guth

It’s day two of the UCU strike for fair pay in HE. I’m at home sitting on my sofa feeling a little lost. Truth be told, I’m worrying about work. I’m worrying about the pieces of assessment I haven’t yet marked, the meetings I haven’t organised, those I haven’t prepared for and whether I really have the time to go to an training course that is useful for me rather than the institution more widely tomorrow afternoon. I worry about my to do list, or rather I worry about looking at it because I know it will be overwhelming and already scarily out of date. I am resisting the urge to open my email and start dealing with stuff because this is what I am talking about, feeling like this, under constant pressure is part of the problem. So for today I will keep feeling a little lost, I will keep fighting the urge to deal with stuff and firefight and keep the balls in the air.

Yesterday I spent the morning on the picket line. It was slightly disappointing to see some academic colleagues heading into work and some of the driving  by staff was a bit aggressive as people did their best to avoid eye contact as they drove up to the barriers and hastily waved their staff cards at the sensors. If you’re an academic and the picket line makes you uncomfortable, maybe you need to think about why. If you’re not an academic and therefore not part of this strike action, stop and show us a bit of support; Smile, say hi or wave or something. Thanks to those who did! Thank you thank you thank you to the guys driving a university van who turned around and didn’t cross the picket line – you’re awesome.

I spent a lot of time yesterday and this morning keeping an eye on twitter – thanks for the support shown there. Thanks to the students in particular for tweeting your support and for understanding that we are doing this for you as much as for ourselves. But what happens tomorrow when we all got back to work? The temptation is to try and cram the last two days worth of work plus tomorrow’s work into tomorrow. The temptation is to still try and meet those deadline, get those exams marked, those meetings sorted, that paperwork done. My instinct is to do that because it needs doing. Let’s be honest, it needed doing last week, last month… But that can’t be how this plays out. The strike cannot result in us all being more stressed out. If I give into that temptation then basically I’ve just not been paid for two days but I still do the work and the university just gets even more of me for free.

Tomorrow I will make a huge effort to work at a sensible pace, starting at a sensible time and finishing at a sensible time. I will not work all weekend to catch up. The strike is supposed to have an impact, that’s the point of a strike! I do wonder whether sometimes we let ourselves down by going back to work and trying to catch up – if we do that we negate the effect of the strike.

I’m struggling- partly self-preservation is kicking in and I want to work to make sure I can keep afloat. I don’t want the ‘well if you hadn’t been on strike you’d not be so behind…’ conversations. I don’t want to be behind… So I’m getting off the sofa and I will find something to do to distract myself from the possibility of work. Maybe I’ll make jam.

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