Thursday 22nd of February is the first day of strike action in support of the UCU. At a national level, lecturers and students alike are acting against a change in the pensions of our educators, who will see a loss of around £10,000 a year in their retirement. This is a massive shock to all staff who have already been subject to eroded job security and, as a result of strike action, will face a wage freeze.
Today, I showed solidarity among an overwhelming number of students who will boycott university and fight against the marketization of education. Amongst the red flares, rallying cries and protest signs was a palpable sense of bitterness, sadness and equally amazement at the sheer volume of people who turned out to support this exasperating cause.
As we marched from Senate House down to the Wills Memorial Building, I managed to ask a handful of individuals what brought them out to strike, including a lecturer from the Hispanic Department, who said:
“The cause, the common cause for all of us. This is something that affects all of us, particularly those of us that are younger people that will be paying into this pension for longer.”
He added, “But it’s not just about us, there’s an awful lot of older colleagues acting in support with us and it’s basically… the fact that there has been no consultation with us, and there’s such a huge change and we really need to show solidarity.”
A Trade Union representative at the megaphone warned against the dangers of the future, stating the power is in our hands now to make a difference for all:
“This is all about solidarity between the staff, the workers involved and between students particularly. We are being told that the next generation has to sacrifice for us. They have to accept worse conditions, worse pensions, poorer wages. That’s not good enough. We cannot sacrifice the next generation for pensioners, we cannot have a time bomb that will see people in poverty in their old age.”
Ultimately, the message delivered today, which will be continually expressed until action is taken, was that staff and students alike will not tolerate such a devastating blow to academics at an individual level and the future of the education discipline as a whole.
As a university, I am confident that we will continue to persuade, cajole and prove that collective action can work as we have the responsibility to protect members of society who are made vulnerable by systems seemingly beyond their control.
See below pictures captured from the day and a list of full strike dates:
Week 1: Thursday 22nd, Friday 23rd Week 2: Monday 26th, Tuesday 27th, Wednesday 28th Week 3: Monday 5th, Tuesday 6th, Wednesday 7th, Thursday 8th Week 4: Monday 12th, Tuesday 13th, Wednesday 14th, Thursday 15th, Friday 16th