UKYCC | HARRY HOLMES
In the coming weeks a number of UK Universities are facing significant strike action from members of the University and College Union (UCU). After continuous attempts to undermine pensions, worsening pay, and increasingly insecure employment, staff are fighting back. Lecturers, PhD students and others are walking out to defend the university from the worst aspects of austerity and marketisation. There will be 14 strike days at over 74 universities. More information about where, when and why is here. UKYCC fully supports this strike action and would encourage other environmentalists to support it too. Don’t cross the picket, support the strikes.
The crisis in UK universities takes many forms. Staff are increasingly overworked, underpaid, and less secure. A Ponzi scheme of teaching is slowly emerging, where overstretched lecturers teach new postgraduate researchers who in turn teach undergraduates despite minimal experience and support. Long-term positions are replaced by casual short-term contracts and part-time teaching. These disparities are enhanced across lines of gender and race, with severe pay gaps emerging. Students and staff are threatened by increasing securitisation and the use of strategies like PREVENT to police free speech. This securitisation has led to increased harassment of international students, with government attempts to make our libraries another border. In addition to this, a university management class has emerged, attempting to run the faculties like businesses and reaping excessive salaries for their pleasure. In sum, the university is increasingly marked by inequality, paranoia, and stress. No space like this can produce the research we need to tackle climate breakdown, let alone advocate for the already existing solutions we have.
It is clear, environmentalists should be involved in solidarity efforts with these strikes. The UCU have been significant allies in recent years, with faculty members supporting divestment campaigns, coming out to march with the Climate Strikes, and continuously teaching about environmental crises. Young environmentalists who wish to be involved in research face the twofold stress of being overworked and underpaid for their faculty work. After all this, they face the inability to gain secure employment at faculties as a final parting spite. Student environmentalists and social justice activists find themselves targeted by university security regimes, fearful of being listed as an extremist or forced to leave the country. The issue here is fundamental. The climate crisis and the marketisation of education are part and parcel of the same broken system. These strikes are our struggle as well.
There are a number of ways in which young people and others can support striking staff. Here are a few suggestions:
Don’t cross the picket line. Support those picketing, even with just a kind word in person or online.
Write to your university management to pressure them to end the strike. This takes a few minutes here.
Get involved with students supporting strike organising. Either by simply joining the picket line or getting involved in making food or providing other resources in organised solidarity efforts.
For those with the means, particularly those who are not students, donate to the UCU strike fund and share it with your networks. Importantly, for more urgent pay-outs to insecure staff, some universities have set up emergency funds, so check with the relevant UCU branch about where to donate.