Why I’m Supporting the Strikes

Matt Rogan (they/he)

We should stand in solidarity with our lecturers, not damn them for wanting fair pensions, pay and conditions.

As you may have seen recently, university lecturers and other teaching staff around the country have backed strikes over pensions, pay, and working conditions; this includes the majority of voting UCU members here in York.

These have been a regular occurrence over the last couple of years, with industrial action occurring in my first year in 2019-20, and I wholeheartedly believe that we should be supporting our striking lecturers. I’m aware it’s a very controversial opinion, but it’s one I firmly believe in.

I’m sure we all agree that the last couple of years haven’t been easy: not on us as students, but also not on our lecturers.

Teaching staff have had to take reactive approaches at every step with changing COVID-19 restrictions: moving all learning online, changing course content so it can be done remotely, and in some cases completely changing the assessment because it’s not possible without a certain bit of lab equipment (I know this happened with my modules last year!).

So, after such an uncertain, tumultuous time, I believe we should be standing with our lecturers in their fight for better pay and working conditions.

I also believe that the cuts to lecturers’ pensions gives us another reason to stand with them. The UCU claim that staff pension contributions could rise by 35% and the UCU have said that: “The changes that have already taken effect between 2011 and 2019 will make a typical member of staff £240,000 worse off over the course of their career and retirement.”

However, another important perspective is that our lecturers are also striking over casualisation and inequality. Not only are two-thirds of academics on non-fixed term contracts according to the UCU website, but the statistics also state “the mean gender pay gap is 15.1%” and that, currently, “it will not be closed for another 22 years”.

The UCU also says that the disability pay gap is 9%, and the pay gap between black and white staff members is a staggering 17%. I think these numbers show a burning injustice that must be addressed for our teaching staff.

We shouldn’t show any animosity or frustration towards lecturers – it’s not their fault. I would also argue that the fact that many lecturers feel that they have no option but to strike clearly shows the urgency of the situation.

The £9,250 yearly tuition fees aren’t going directly to our lecturers, they go to the University. If we are going to be frustrated, we should direct those frustrations where they’re needed: towards those cutting our lecturers’ pensions, controlling their working conditions, and influencing pay.

The least our lecturers deserve is our support.