Published: 23rd March, 2022
In this next edition of the Picket Post, one Leicester UCU member explores why we are striking, why it matters to them, to all of us, and how we can help make a difference.
If you would like to contribute to this ongoing series, please forward any pieces to Cara Dobbing, Communications Officer (firstname.lastname@example.org). This may be a reflection of a particular day’s picketing, or a wider reflection on how you feel about the current disputes.
I am writing this short piece to express my view on the current industrial action by UCU.
I have been in Leicester long enough to see the good changes, but mostly, over the years, I have seen bad changes.
We are a University without a bookshop, not even a second-hand bookshop. We are a University without a postroom on site. We are a University without a dedicated staff-only space to socialise. Of course that is only scratching the surface. We are a University with priority issues. We are a University that will choose to build shiny, new buildings over investing in its staff. A University that pretends to care about academic freedom and mental health, yet continues to make strategic choices that go against these principles. We are a University that is led by metrics, by numbers, by marketization, not by its people. We are a University that does not invest in its younger staff, and a University that does not value senior staff that have contributed so much over so many years.
Sadly, the issues are the same across the country, across all Universities.
Yet, we are (still) the University. We. Every one of us. Staff, students, everyone.
Speaking from a staff perspective, the issues are there, right in front of us, even if you choose not to see them. I am sure you see them, though. You talk to colleagues in the corridor, you talk to colleagues about these issues when you have coffee, when you have lunch, you talk about these issues in the evenings, weekends, when you try to avert yet another crisis out of working hours. You talk with colleagues, family, friends about working crazy hours, you talk to them about ever increasing demands, you talk to them about casualization and insecurity, you talk to them about not feeling supported, not having time to properly give to all aspects of your job. You talk to them about pay cuts, about pension cuts.
Industrial action is a last resort for Union members. We care about our research, we care about our teaching, we care about students. This caring is part of the problem, but perhaps a discussion for another time.
Yes, industrial action is a last resort for Union members, yet it is a unique opportunity to be vocal about these issues. The issues we all see.
Picketing is the most ‘visual way’ to show employers, members of the public, students that you are on strike, to share your stories, to express your anger. So, please come to the picket line. Bring your colleagues. Bring your students. You don’t have to come every day, you don’t have to stay all day, you don’t have to make a speech, but we need you there.
Come and share your stories, come and have that chat with a colleague that you have been meaning to have for some time. Come and meet colleagues from other schools and departments. You don’t really have much opportunity to do that on a normal day, anyway. Yet, you somehow need to find ways to collaborate, be an interdisciplinary researcher.
But picketing is not for everyone. I understand that. Maybe others don’t, but I do.
If you are on strike, but you have not share it with anyone, why are you on strike? Tell your colleagues so they don’t feel they are the only ones doing it. Put an out of office message. Share something on social media. Arrange a meeting with your mentee or another colleague to have that chat or that coffee that is always cut short by yet another email that needs a response. Catch up with your gym routine, call your friends, read that book you never have time for. As cliché as it sounds, take back control of your time. You are not paid, you are causing disruption, you upset people; rest, connect, re-connect, support each other. Don’t work during strike action, re-claim your time.
If you are feeling de-moralised, think what UCU has achieved. Think where we would be without industrial action over recent years…
A little goes a long way; what can you do today to make things a little bit better in your workspace? How can you influence a small change, through showing up, connecting, sharing? What will you do today to change things for the better? To show people that you care, do build morale, to (re)build the Union, to show solidarity?
Thanks for reading.