Yesterday’s one day strike action was both heartening and disappointing. Heartening when, for example, a Birkbeck student came in to join us on the picket line to hand out leaflets for half an hour. Disappointing not so much because some people crossed the picket line, but because union members who were on strike (and deciding to lose a day’s pay), did not join the picket line, even for half an hour. I’m wondering why this was the case. It seems important that in order to make the strike as effective as possible, we need to be both disruptive and visibly in solidarity – teachers, academics, academic support staff, librarians, administrators standing together, so that management can see that quite a few of us are pissed off.
By not coming out in solidarity, even for a little bit, what have you demonstrated? I’m aware some people could not afford to take strike action this time and took a day’s leave instead so as not to have to cross the picket line – and really it’s for those people I was on strike and on the picket line yesterday. For those who aren’t union members, and just worked from home to avoid the embarrassment of crossing a picket line – well, that’s another issue, I’d preferred it if they’d come into work so as to have a conversation on the picket line about a) why they’re not a union member and 2) why they don’t support the strike viagra livraison rapide. But maybe that’s just me being nosey.
It seems so rare to be able to demonstrate physical solidarity with co-workers across the sector and come out in support of each other, that such an act seems to generate fear, shame and bemusement among many. Some people get whipped up into a frenzy – how could we be so stupid to assume such a display of unity will do anything to effect change? The university management has made up their minds and that’s it. Suck it up. Others are quite happy with their lot, get paid enough, enjoy work, and don’t want to rock the boat. The individualism that one encounters when on the picket line is quite staggering – maybe some people think the act of striking is in itself individualistic and greedy – I want more money. But the bigger picture is a really important motivation for me – disparity in the sector is so extreme – over half of the UCEA members earn over £242,000 while over 4,000 members of staff in HE earn below the living wage and many more people are being moved onto zero hours contracts. Gender inequality in higher education is the widest in the public sector. I’m striking not just for me but because I care about these issues and want to do something about them.
The decision to strike is not taken lightly and it’s really complicated to withdraw our labour in the education sector. We tend to defer work rather than not do it because it is often the staff that suffer the effect of unwritten articles, unread emails and student dissatisfaction rather than the employers. But that’s why it’s important if we are on strike to demonstrate that solidarity, share tactics of withdrawing labour, stories of our experiences of work and educate ourselves about the bigger picture of higher education – the picket line is a good place for this, that’s where we discuss this stuff, gain strength and get organised. So thanks to all those that came to hand out leaflets, talk to people and show solidarity. To other fellow strikers – where were you?