The latest round of University and College Union (UCU) strikes are underway, with University of Manchester staff among academics from 74 universities across the country set to strike for 14 days.
Industrial action began on Thursday the 20th of February, with UCU members gathering in St. Peter’s Chaplaincy to hear speakers including Labour leadership hopeful Rebecca Long-Bailey.
One student who attended the strike meeting to hear Long-Bailey talk was third-year History student George Walker, who called the speech “inspiring”.
The strikes are set to take place over four weeks, with teaching days missed ramping up from two in week one, to a full five-day week in week four. Lecturers are striking over pensions, pay, and workplace conditions.
On the picket line, one academic, Caroline Martin, said: “It feels like we don’t have any choice. We’ve already been on strike for eight days and if we don’t carry on until we achieve something it would seem as if we just wasted the eight days.
“They [University leadership] haven’t offered us anything substantial and believable that would make us not carry on with the strikes. It would be brilliant if all the rest of our colleagues came out on strike with us because obviously if we could shut down the university to a great extent, and if the same thing happened at other universities, the strike would be over so quickly because the employers would just be on the phone straight away saying we want to talk.”
Martin told The Mancunion that students who are frustrated with the strikes should email the Vice-Chancellor Professor Dame Nancy Rothwell, or the registrar Patrick Hackett, telling them to get back to the negotiating table.
Students also joined UCU members on picket lines in support of the strike. Wilf Kenning said he was marching with lecturers “Because I’m increasingly tired of how university is becoming marketised and commodified and how throughout my whole life increasing cuts and targets that are making education more of a commodity than an actual resource for people to benefit from.”
“These four issues that the UCU are striking against which is pensions, pay parity and casualization, gender and BAME gaps, the way they intersect they are increasingly making education a commodity and so I’m going to be marching with them and standing shoulder to shoulder with them on the picket lines because they are fighting for my right to have a better education.”
Speaking about Rebecca Long-Bailey’s address, Walker said: “I was impressed by Long-Bailey’s effort to attend what may seem in the grand scheme of things a fairly minimal strike, it really shows her credentials as someone who will stand up for the interests of all those shortchanged by employers or wielders of power.
“With regards to her speech, while it was short, it contained some really inspiring ideas around the principle of education and its ability to liberate and emancipate the mind and the person.
“Something which should not be deterred by ability to pay, or compromised to line the pockets of the academic managerial classes. Overall I was very impressed, and took away a great sense of much-needed solidarity.”
Last week, a University of Manchester spokesperson told The Mancunion: “We have contingencies in place to ensure that any impacts on learning are mitigated and that future decisions relating to their progression, degree outcome and graduation can be taken irrespective of the impact of this industrial action.
“We expect all eligible students to be able to graduate as planned, and continuing students to be informed of their progression status.”