In the aftermath of an unprecedented propaganda campaign, lecturers and support staff are to join forces to react against the modernization demon. Countering policies to ensure a better work/life balance and to bring all academic staff into a single pay spine. They are ready to strike, but do their protests justify depriving us of the education we pay for?
Most academic staff at York are represented by the AUT, one of seven higher education unions, but the only one to agree on strike action. From their figures it would seem an overwhelming majority wish to strike. But in actuality, a third of the union voted for strike action. That’s 5% of the total number of lecturers across the UK who want to strike over reduced pay rises.
Not only are the figures skewered, but so too is the dirty campaign the AUT plans to unleash. Indulging in opportunism, academics are to strike in the same week as the NUS protests, linking the moral issues of top-up fees with avaricious pay protests. Pay, instead of remaining an issue for education institutions and unions, has taken unwitting students under its wing.
Whilst further education college lecturers have accepted the new pay rise plan, a vote of confidence in the negotiators, whose arms remain open, has been snubbed by the AUT.
But, there are real issues at the heart of this; it is not the petty whining of an over-indulged group of lecturers. This is truly the revolt of the ‘librarians’ as well. The AUT is concerned that support staff would not receive the same national grade profiling as lecturers, and may suffer bureaucracy-laden job evaluations. The UCEA have rejected these claims, but they are still legitimate reasons to protest.
So I call for a strike. Striking does work. The postal strikes recently, caused severe disruptions and brought the negotiators back to the table ready to concede. But does striking work in an education context concerning a relatively closed group of people?
Earlier this month, lecturers at Leicester further education institutions went on strike over a proposed loss of four holiday days. This highly ineffective strike, with little noticeable effect to the students, let alone the populace, saw lecturers come crawling back to sign the deal. Striking, to be quite frank, simply will not work here.
On learning of the lecturers strike, I felt rather like I was back at school during the fuel protests. When I, like many other students across the country, hoped for a day off. And, disappointingly, I was greeted with the same giddy excitement from University students when they contemplated the prospects of a few days off. Striking just will not hit the message home.
Action taken by ‘librarians’ and academics alike will not get the same media coverage, as the life-threatening image of the firemen on strike outside their local stations, with a swarm of green goddesses chugging around the country. It will only disrupt a few closed communities dotted around the country.
If this plan truly is unfair, if modernization really is an injustice to academic staff, then I call for harder action. The AUT needs to punch the students in the stomach, and it has just the tools to do so.
Lecturers must boycott assessment activities, temporarily grinding to a halt the awarding of grades and delaying degree completion. You must be cruel only to be kind.
Hit us all hard, then the students and institutions will listen.