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Students: Why were you on the picket line?

15 mins read

The University and College Union (UCU) went on strike for the three days following an aggregated ballot across the entire United Kingdom. This meant that coordinated strikes would impact every UCU branch in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

The strikes began after 81% of union members decided they wanted to take industrial action concerning pay and work conditions. As well as a further 84% wanting to take industrial action on pensions. Brig spoke to lecturers on why they are striking and the reasons why UCU national balloted all members.

YouGov polled asking whether the nation sympathises with the ongoing strikes affecting the country and it found that “three in ten people (32%) would back a strike by university staff, with 53% opposed.” Following this low number of prospective supporters, Brig spoke to the students on the picket line and asked why they were there supporting their lecturers. 

Lewis Forsyth, 4th Year student: “I’m supporting the UCU strike because I’ve seen the effect of the pay and working conditions on my lecturers and that is needing food banks or leaving the sector due to overworking. Vice-Chancellors need to sort this out because apart from being the morally right thing to do, the working conditions of university staff is directly tied to the quality of teaching I get as a student. In not sorting the dispute, Vice-Chancellors are risking the exodus of staff as well as mental crises for university lecturers.”

Ludovico Caminati, 4th Year student: “The reason why I’m on the picket line today is because I want to support my lecturer. I really believe in the reason they’re striking, they’ve been striking for three years now and I believe their [working] conditions, their pay has been cut and their pensions are a mess. These are the reasons why I’m standing in the rain today to gather with my lecturers in solidarity because there is power in a union.”

Dan McPadden, 3rd Year student: “It is incredibly important to be on the picket line, standing with the workers of this university, who frankly have been screwed over by their employer. Their [UCU members] pay since 2009 is down 25%. This year with rampant inflation they’ve been asked to take a 7.5 percentage point pay-cut. I think that is just abysmal. It’s a disgrace. These are the people that make the university what it is. It’s not the big new buildings, it’s not the whatever million pound new gym. It’s people who are working their asses off day in and day out to give us our education. [They] make this university. Ultimately, I think it’s a question of what education is for – is it for a profit? Or is it for the good of the people who are being educated and the good of society? I think if we want to keep education as a public good which will actually help people then the only thing we can do is stand and support our lecturers, support the university workers who are not asking for the earth.”

Lily Henderson, 1st Year student: “I’m here today because the workers’, our lecturers’, working conditions are our learning conditions and we deserve the best education that we can get. So, therefore they need to be paid properly, and also they should be getting this pay as we are in a cost of living crisis. It’s ridiculous – people need to put food on the table.”

Ciara Conlin, 4th Year student: “I’m supporting the lecturers on the picket line as I believe it is in students’ best interests and should be the absolute standard for students to support lecturers and advocate for better working conditions for them. These people put everything into their career and to get us through each semester being teachers and supporting us. Therefore, we should have their backs. The lecturers at universities across the UK deserve better and I will always advocate in support of their demands.”

Dav José, 4th Year student: “I believe that the university fails the students and fails the lecturers equally and that they need to get fair pay, they need fair rights. They need to be treated like human beings. The marketisation of university needs to stop.”

Joe, 1st Year student: “These people are teaching me – it is only fair that they get the pension and a fair salary and, you know, it’s good fun.”

Freddie Bruun Petersen, 3rd Year student: “I’m on the picket line because I want to support my lecturers and I want an education that is good for me without hurting my lecturers. My lecturers’ working conditions are my learning conditions and if they are not getting the pay and treatment they need to be able to do their jobs then it is going to affect my learning and my education in general. People are paying a lot of money for this and that money is not going to the lecturers and they need more support. We need more support”.

Chiara Busini, 4th Year student: “I’m on the picket line because I feel like it’s important to support workers on strike and our lecturers are on strike at the moment. It’s really important we support them. If they don’t have good working conditions then we won’t have very good learning conditions either. The cost of living crisis is hitting us all so, we need to support all of us”.

Andy Paterson, 4th Year student: “I’m on the picket line today because, obviously, our lecturers are on strike and they need the support from the student body to understand that. Universities get sold as a community and if a community doesn’t support one and another then it’s not a community. And that goes for those at the top of the university as well, they’re not supporting those on the lower end of the socio-economic scale. Whether that’s students or staff, everyone is struggling and they need the help and the fact they’re not getting the help is ridiculous. Especially when the university has spent millions and millions of pounds on a gym that is famously unpopular and can’t for some reason find the money to actually pay their staff or give good contracts to staff, ’cause obviously there [are] a lot of part-time staff here as well that will be looking for work over the summer and I don’t need the competition!”

Nia Fehlow, 4th Year student: “I think it is important to support our lecturers at this time, they’ve also been very supportive of us those past years, for me personally at least. And especially I think with the cost of living crisis, rising inflation, it is important that we support our staff in all different sectors from university to nursing and same with everyone that deserves a pay rise – that is why I’m here.”

Seth Laycock, student: “I’m on the picket line today because I believe in fairer wages for lecturers, in fairer pensions. I believe that lecturers should have a greater voice in the uni and awareness should be raised for issues like this. This is a very good visual image for people driving into the university to see the people that support this and that this is something they should take note of, be aware of, and support.”

Kirsten Murray, 4th Year student: “I am on this picket line this morning because I care about my lecturers; like I just think the way they’re being treated in terms of their pay, never being given a pay-rise, the whole pension fund thing, I think the way they’re being treated for the amount of work lecturers do is just ridiculous. I’ve always been brought up in a house that I should stand up for what I believe in, and I very much believe that lecturers deserve to be paid their due.”

Simi Borovská, 4th Yearstudent: “I’m here today on the picket line because I believe our lecturers deserve so so much better. They really teach us everything we know at the uni, they are the veins of our education. With the cost of living crisis, everything going down, the inflation will be hitting 20% and their wages are stagnating, their pensions are going down. They deserve so much better, the least as students we can do is to support them.”

Morgan Lewis-Wilson, 4th Year student (pictured on the left): “I’m here today because I think students and staff need to stick together. We are both facing some of the biggest attacks on the higher education sector in perhaps the entirety of recent Scottish history. I think education plays a very important role in society, and ultimately the university treats it as a commercial enterprise. Education and commerce are not compatible and we’re really seeing the decrease in quality of the student experience as a result of that whether it’s in the form of the university bus services, whether it’s in the form of mental health support, accommodation, conditions of lecturers…you can name whatever and you can guarantee it’ll be going downhill. This is just one of the ways that the university community is fighting back and I think I’m standing in solidarity here in support of those efforts and I’d like to see the UCU go all the way, win their demands and even further. I think as students it is our job to support that.”

Justine Pédussel, 3rd Year student (pictured second to left): “I support my lecturers because it just makes sense to. The Vice-Chancellors really need to sort this out because their working conditions are our learning conditions and I’m happy to sit down with you and explain to you why cutting peoples’ pensions in the middle of Covid does not make sense. Why people should get paid what they deserve and why it should also reflect the work that they actually have and that there are so many so hours in a day actually work because you can’t extend the number of hours you do in a day.”

Eliot Wooding-Sherwin, 4th Year student: (pictured on the right): “I’m on the picket line to show my solidarity to the lecturers on strike. The UCU isn’t on strike because it wants to be, they are desperate to be treated fairly and they want to create a working environment which is good for the generation of academic staff to come. That’s likely to be us, many students go on to be academic staff so it’s our future working conditions they’re fighting for too. It’s important for students to voice their support for the strike so our teachers don’t feel so alone, I sent a solidarity email to my lecturers before the strike action started and one of them told me she’d never received an email like that before which was heartbreaking to think that none of her past students have ever shown that support. We’re likely to be looking at continued strike action next semester, get down to the picket lines and send emails of support. They need our support.”

Feature Photo credit: Susan Hare.

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