Why I’m on strike today…¬†

31 October Strike for Fair Pay

I’ve just read a comment on the Guardian website saying that it’s pointless striking because lecturers will be “spending the day at home answering emails, marking, catching up on journals or doing research.” I’m not a lecturer but I can identify with the passion they have for their work and the development of their students. I know staff work all hours, many of them on short term or, even worse, zero hours contracts. It’s not a 9-5 job and educators don’t just ‘switch off’.

I’m also aware of the staff in the background who keep our universities going – cleaners, caterers, administrators, porters, etc… – who get paid a pittance. A 1% pay rise when inflation is around 3% is going to put many into an impossible situation. Yet these are all ‘strivers’ – people who David Cameron says his Government is there to support. Instead unions are demonised and sections of society are encouraged to blame each other as our public services are dismantled and our employment rights eroded.

The marketisation of education is encouraging universities to drive down costs as they compete with increasing numbers of private providers looking to make a profit. Education shouldn’t be about making a fast buck – we should be investing in future generations, encouraging them to expand their knowledge and experience, not limiting their choices and saddling them with ridiculous debt. Part of making this happen requires having staff who feel valued and motivated.¬†Instead we now have hierarchies of micro-managers, more bureaucracy, increased workloads and less staff. We are expected to contribute to ‘excellence’ for little or no reward. Motivation is at an all time low, but we carry on because we genuinely care about our students.

I know universities have tight budgets and are working hard to survive in this new HE environment. I also know that the most successful businesses look after their staff as they are considered to be, rightly, their best asset. So please, listen to your staff, value them, pay them and treat them fairly, whether you’re in the public or private sector, and let’s work together to give the next generation the best and most rewarding education we can.