‘Lecturers are losing far more than we are’: Bristol students on the ongoing strikes

Polling by The Bristol Tab found 58 per cent support the strikes

Bristol Uni has entered the second day of staff strikes against cuts to their pay and pensions. This is the third time in four years staff have gone on strike over the dispute. While some students are firmly in support of their striking lecturers, others are frustrated to experience yet another year of disrupted learning. 

Last week, following a motion brought to Student Council, Bristol SU voted to support the strikes whilst maintaining to fight to reduce the impact this will have on students.

However, the student body is divided. Whilst nationally, an NUS survey found 73 per cent of students are in favour of strikes, polling from The Bristol Tab taken by 710 people, showed only 58 per cent support the strikes.

The UCU argues the wages of staff have fallen by 20 per cent since 2009 and the upcoming change to the University Superannuation Scheme (USS) will see pensions drop by 35 per cent on average.

The union is demanding an immediate £2,500 pay increase for all staff and an end to race, gender, and disability pay injustice. They are also calling for the elimination of zero hours and other casualised contracts, and to tackle “unmanageable workloads”.

Professor Gary Foster who teaches in the School of Biological Sciences explained: “Those wonderful academics and staff who I know you all love and admire have had their pay eroded for nearly ten years now.

“But [the] biggest kick in the teeth has been the cuts to pensions for mid-career, younger academics, that is why we MUST stop right now to stop this, hence the strike”.

The Bristol Tab spoke to Bristol Uni students to get their perspective on the strike action and the disruption to their studies. 

Joe, a third year Biochemistry student, said: “To be honest, I think a lot of students are apathetic towards it. But I agree that three days off uni is not the end of the world and most students will just see it as that.” 

Luke, also a third year Biochemistry student, supports the striking staff: “The lecturers are losing far more than we are”, he said.

“We lose three days, they have their pension cut. It’s only three days, that really doesn’t massively impact me as a student. They deserve what they are asking for, I think it’s completely fair play what they are doing.”

Jake, a third year Philosophy student argued: “The problem is the perpetrators of the problem are the university and we are getting punished for it.”

“As much as it doesn’t have that much of an effect on us, the principal that we have to suffer for something that isn’t our fault is difficult.

“Ultimately the people who are suffering are the students when the students aren’t responsible for the dispute. In reality, what the lecturers need to do is hit the people who are perpetrating this dispute which are the universities, the universities don’t care because they are still getting our money.”

Second year Physics student, Emily took a more drastic approach to solving the dispute.

“I’d rather lecturers refused to mark any work for a term and did something as drastic as that. Obviously that wouldn’t happen but it would massively escalate the issue and force the university to act, then carry on with this repeated striking like we saw in 2018,2019 and 2020 which doesn’t lead to anything and just punishes students.

The strikes are damaging enough that they impact our learning but not damaging enough that students actually engage and turn their anger towards the university so we keep going on the merry-go-round of perpetual strikes”

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