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Teaching staff make a stand at the picket line: Striking lecturer speaks to The Student

ByKrzysztof Pukacz

Mar 16, 2020

The teaching strikes have now entered their third week, with teaching staff walking out for a second time in the last five months to challenge issues surrounding their pensions, workload and precarious contracts.

This comes after the Universities and Colleges Union (UCU) secretary, Jo Grady, reaffirmed the union’s commitment to be “prepared to take serious and sustained action to defend pay and conditions, as well as our pensions.”

Strike action continues due to changes in the University Superannuations Scheme (USS).

This could see teaching staff lose many thousands of pounds from their pensions, as well as the use of casual contracts which arguably sometimes pushes teaching staff into precarious conditions.

Furthermore, a group of students in support of the striking lecturers have been occupying the Chrystal MacMillan building, in solidarity with striking UCU staff and in protest of the University’s policies towards tier 4 visa students, since last Wednesday (March 4th).

The Student spoke to a striking member of staff about the industrial action in order to get the staff’s perspective.

When asked about their reasons for striking, they responded:

“Precarity/casualisation and workload. The basic lack of regard that the university shows its staff and by extension its students.

“The university does not value teaching.

“If it did, people would not be employed on teaching-only short term contracts with no opportunities for development.

“Many of the frontline teaching staff have no job security, with most contracts stretching for a maximum of 12 months.

“Even then, many are on 0.8 contracts, which effectively means that they receive a 9-10 month salary that is then spread out over 12 months.

“Many are kept on year after year, but their contract never changes.”

The discussion then turned to any changes that have occurred since the last round of strikes, with tne staff member stating that no differences are apparent.

“Recently we have seen that the national bodies that represent all universities are prepared to at least come back around the negotiating table, which is an effect of previous and present strike action.

“However, Edinburgh [University of] itself has made no effort to alleviate staff anxieties or show any meaningful action on the issues at the heart of the strike.”

They were then asked about morale on the picket lines and how students could show support.

“To be honest, I think morale gets stronger with every day. Chrystal Macmillan Building Occupied Image: Creative Com mons Zero via pxfuel 4 People are angry and upset, and would rather be teaching. Each day that the university ignores our demand, those feelings harden and harden.

“Picket lines also provide an opportunity for staff to come together and share their stories, and so it is often a place where solidarity is further fostered.

“However, many people are still being deducted pay from the last strikes, and they are facing severe deductions over the next few months. For some, travelling to and from the university is therefore not affordable when losing so much pay.

“Students are always welcome to join staff members on picket lines, and that support will always mean a great deal.”

The UCU strikes are due to continue for a further week (9- 13th March).


Image: Magnus Hagdorn via Flickr