We understand that students may feel frustrated by lost or delayed teaching and the additional stress that may result from strike action, and we aim to provide support for students to mitigate the impact of these disruptions. We have seen that disruption is especially felt by our international students who often feel isolated without the support that regular classes and meetings can offer. This is due to the relatively increased financial damage coupled with the emotionally taxing effect of studying away from friends and family.
Talking to staff made us aware that strikes to them are an issue of conscience and that strict conditions need to be met for strike action to take place. It should also be noted that staff are not being paid whilst on strike. Staff are aware of the burden on students, but striking is their last resort.
Issues faced by staff are detrimental to the quality of education of our students and, in the long term, a win for the three trade unions is a win for students. Increasing workload for teaching staff allows less time for marking and preparing, and also affects timetabling. Real term fall in pay makes recruitment especially difficult, for example in IT roles, and students are users of the University’s IT systems. Race and gender pay gaps make the sector inaccessible to prospective academics from marginalised backgrounds and set the wrong example to our students.
Some of our members sit between the student body and staff members and are also part of the dispute. Many of our PGR students who teach are on zero hour contracts, based on the number of hours they work. PGRs have told us that they are often overworked to meet teaching commitments. Casualisation also means that PGRs are unable to receive benefits like paid sick and maternity leave.
Overall, we support the right to fair pay, a secure pension, and improved working conditions and contracts. In spite of the fact that our studies may be temporarily affected, we firmly believe that a successful conclusion to the demands of this industrial action will make our learning environment better.