On Thursday 20th February, the University and College Union (UCU) began their second wave of strike action of the academic year due to pay cuts, gender pay gaps, increased pension costs, deteriorating working conditions and overwhelming concerns about casualisation within higher education institutions. Impact joined the picket line and Thursday’s rally at Highfield Park to gage the feeling of students in the wake of this direct action.
Tadeusz Price, first-year Philosophy and Psychology student, told Impact, ‘I’m a Philosophy student and my degree has been put completely on hold during the strike period. Again. I stand with my staff simply because I care about them, and I see how high workloads and precarious contracts put pressure on them. I’d like to be taught by lecturers who have job security and time to address my questions and evaluate my work.’
Around 50,000 lecturers, technicians, librarians and other academic support staff across 74 universities will take part in 14 days of strike action through February and March, which will affect 1.2 million students because of lost lectures and tutorials.
“This is the lecturers’ final and most radical line of defence against unfair contracts, wages and conditions”
George Sullivan, second-year History student and Campaigns Officer for Nottingham Labour Students, told Impact, ‘this is the lecturers’ final and most radical line of defence against unfair contracts, wages, and conditions. They do not want to be on strike. They want to be teaching in the classrooms with their students. That’s why they went into the profession in the first place and to say they are neglecting their students is an abhorrent lie’.
Students have affirmed their support for staff, but many are insisting on compensation from university managers with the emergence of online petitions. This could be done within a framework that puts pressure on university higher management and the Vice-Chancellor, Shearer West, rather than criminalising university staff who have been forced to strike.
“Matt Green, the University of Nottingham’s UCU rep led the demonstration giving a speech himself followed by a series of lecturers”
The rainy picket line action on Thursday was followed by a rally at Highfield Park. There was chanting, whistling, cheering and an optimistic atmosphere despite the downpour. The Trent Building, and thus the management offices, lingered in the background of the scene. Matt Green, the University of Nottingham’s UCU rep led the demonstration giving a speech himself followed by a series of lecturers, the Postgraduate Rep for Nottingham Labour Students, Joe Baker and MP for Nottingham East, Nadia Whittome. Joe Baker asserted in his speech, ‘universities have always led the way on social justice and if they want to continue to have that kind of influence they need to come to an agreement with the UCU and address the problem on their doorstep’. Stay tuned for more Impact coverage of the strike action.
Featured image courtesy of Ellie Stainforth-Mallison.