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Students, Staff, and Strikes: What do people think?

This week, the university is facing industrial action for the third time this academic year over the same issues; pension cuts of 35%, unfair working conditions, and unequal pay. 

As this comes towards the end of the semester with deadlines drawing close, both students and staff have expressed irritation.

Fourth-year students in particular, currently working on their dissertations, have told The Student that they feel adversely affected by the strikes. 

Coupled with the ongoing fallout as a result of the pandemic, some students described the strikes as “very disrupting and frustrating”. 

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Students at the School of Literatures, Languages and Cultures (LLC) have created a petition requesting extensions for dissertations, as a result of the strike’s impact on their university work. 

Izzie, a fourth-year LLC student, told The Student that they support the strikes as many other students do, but admits:

“We will have missed three weeks of teaching and supervision which makes completing the dissertation quite difficult. An extension should be considered, or at least a promise that markers will take the disruption into account.” 

There has not yet been an official response to the petition from the LLC School. However, fourth-year English Literature students have received an e-mail stating that while there is no official extension to dissertation deadlines, individual applications for extensions are guaranteed to be granted. 

A tutor in the Classics department explained to The Student why she is striking: 

“We are paid for 20 minutes of marking your essays and for an hour of preparation for each tutorial. It takes at least twice the time to provide you with the feedback needed to grow as scholars, and so we work much longer hours than we get paid. 

“This is a fundamentally difficult situation, particularly in the past years with Covid – and we are still being left with the same scanty pay.

“The youngest faculty members will end up with the worst pensions because of the pension cuts. 

“I want change to be affected because it is boring to be on strike and I miss my students. When I get e-mails from students, I want to answer them. But at the same time, I feel a duty to my greater Union, to support them and the cause.” 

Speaking to The Student, Dr. Craig Sailor, a teaching fellow in Linguistics and English Language, expressed his personal views on the situation:

“You’re constantly torn into two different directions: On the one hand you feel strongly motivated to change the situation and like you are doing the right thing, as striking seems the only tool left to get our employers to negotiate with us in good faith. 

“But on the other hand, we have a commitment to our students as lecturers. We have spent our entire career thinking about our students and now they are being put in the middle. It is heart-breaking and I struggle a lot with feelings of guilt.

“When students tell me that they are on our side, it means the world.

“There is always a tension between ensuring the strikes are sufficiently disruptive versus feeling like the students are receiving an undue burden. Staff might be highly tempted to mitigate the effects, but it is crucial that we don’t do that. If the strikes are not disruptive, no one will feel their impact and we would be undermining our own cause.

“It is true that our working conditions are the students’ learning environment. The idea that I only work 35 hours a week as stated in my contract is comical. I work probably double that just to make sure I am covering everything. This is just part of why I believe in all the fights that the Union is undertaking and why I participate.”

Joe, an Economics and Politics student, summarised the consensus among most students. He told The Student

“I fully support the strikes. University staff have exhausted everything to negotiate short of strike action, so this is the next logical step. It is painful to have lost out on so much learning, especially on top of Covid.

“However, that pain is not coming from the malice of University staff, it is coming from the unwillingness of the University to give them fair pay and benefits.”

Image via: Geograph