For the third time in some people’s university careers, lecturers and support staff at a number of UK universities are going on strike. They are striking due to issues around casualisation (a large percentage of staff are on zero-hour contracts, and are working second jobs to keep afloat), pension changes, low pay and high workload. Many students are against the strikes, as we miss out on contact hours, meetings, lectures, seminars and assignments that we technically pay for.
First of all, what is a strike? A strike occurs when a workforce is unhappy with the way they are treated by an employer (in this case, the University itself), so they withdraw their labour, and stop working altogether in protest of conditions. The most famous strike is likely the miners strike of 1984, in which the miners union protested mass closures of mines. The miners withdrew their labour and threw the country into turmoil, as there was now no one mining for coal (which the country relied on at the time). A picket line is something commonly associated with a strike. A picket line is a physical line that staff will stand on (usually outside of their place of work), which they will not cross to go into work, and will encourage others to also not cross.
It is important to remember that those who choose to strike don’t get paid for their time doing so, and many run the risk of damaging their careers, as employers obviously don’t care for people who strike.
You might be thinking, why do strikes affect me? I’m not a miner, or a factory worker, or a lecturer! The thing is, strikes affect everyone. University staff striking affects the students who are missing out on contact hours, the families of the striking staff who are going without pay, the parents of students who are paying for university, the university itself and many other companies who work with the university to provide a service or run events.
However, the most important thing about striking, in my opinion, is whether you support them or not. Here are some things you can do if you support the strikes:
And if you don’t support the strikes (which is completely within your rights, please don’t let another person shame you or put you down for not supporting something!):