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UCU strike

I’m currently participating in the UCU strike, which is taking place at Warwick and sixty UK universities over issues of pensions, fair pay, the increased use of staff on short-term and part-time contracts, and pay gaps for women and non-white colleagues. I spent the morning out on my first picket line (in the rain, of course), discussing these concerns with colleagues.

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Though not officially on the strike agenda, many of us are also concerned about the massive administrative burdens caused by a slew of metrics (often poorly considered or admittedly flawed), which are used for short-sighted evaluation and the constant, nearly fetishized ranking of universities. Salaries have gone down in real terms even as workloads and student fees have gone up.

It’s really no fun having to go on strike (and not just because of the rain). Of course, we’ll all lose eight days of pay. I certainly didn’t enjoy explaining to students that the term would end early and suddenly; one gets into this line of work because one believes in the value of education, so cancelling classes isn’t a decision taken lightly. We also know that most of us will ending up doing most of the work we miss over the strike days (though the union would rather we didn’t). Much of the work is simply displaced and unpaid. In my case, I worked nights and weekends to get feedback to students before the strike so that could work on their essays. I already have scheduled meetings with supervisees for after the strike, which would have been part of my normal schedule otherwise, but now is being done on what would be research time. As is often the case, research is pushed to nights, weekends, and unused holiday time–even though it makes up much of a our evaluation and promotion cases.  But unfortunately–and despite Warwick’s more progressive position–at the national level, there has been little response from universities to these important issues. All of them have gotten measurably and demonstrably worse over the last decade. So, here we are…

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