We asked Lancaster students why they are supporting the striking staff

‘Everyone should work in a good environment and be paid fairly’

Many Lancaster University staff are currently participating in a three-day strike over poor working conditions, excessive working hours and job insecurity. Over 600 students voted for the Students’ Union to support the strike, so we asked students to explain their personal support in more detail.

‘It shows that we can be altruistic and empathetic with others’

Tom, a third year student, explained that he sees the strike as benefiting students on a moral level. He said: “Standing with the staff at this university who choose to strike is a kind, symbolic gesture. To me, it shows that we can be altruistic and empathetic with others.”

‘I understand they might have a good reason to carry it out’

Rachel, a second year, gave a more critical perspective. She said: “I don’t really support the strike, but I understand they might have a good reason to carry it out.” Rachel’s issue with the current strike was her feeling that it penalises students “who are also in debt with the government”, rather than carrying out action that would affect solely the government.

‘I have a vested interest in better conditions’

Jake, a graduate research student, had a strong personal interest in what’s at stake in the strike. He said: “I’m pursuing a career in academia, so I have a vested interest in better conditions for early career academics and long term prospects in the field.” According to the strike organisers, early-career academics are being seriously impeded by long working hours and terrible wages.

“More than that though, it’s early career academics who do the bulk of the teaching, like seminars, and it’s highly unlikely that they can do their best work when they’re having to rely on dodgy contracts to survive.”

Jake concluded that it’s in the best interest of students to support the strikes, since the welfare of tutors directly impacts the quality of learning.

‘It’s now time to support them’

Michael, a second year, felt he had been supported by his lecturers and wished to return the favour. He said: “The lecturers I had were amazing about supporting my mental health and constantly checked in with me, especially when I had Covid.”

He points out that one reason given for the strike action is that “over 50 per cent of staff were showing signs of depression”, which is significantly higher than in the general public. “I think it’s now time to support them when the treatment they receive from management isn’t satisfactory or fair.”

‘Everyone should work in a good environment’

Eleanor, a third year, declared that she was supporting the strike action for a simple reason. She said: “Everyone should work in a good environment and be paid fairly, especially considering what has happened over the last year.”

‘It’s our right as workers to strike’

Sophie, a second year student, explained that she was dismayed to realise that if she decided to support the strikes by not crossing the picket line, she would be penalised by her department. She said: “I will support all strikes no matter who is striking because it’s our right as workers to strike in order to protect ourselves.”

After reaching out to her department about her modules continuing during the strike period, and her desire to support the strikes by boycotting those modules, she was informed that such action would be marked as an unauthorised absence and would impact her grades.

A Lancaster University spokesperson said: “We absolutely understand students’ frustration at the impact of the strike on their studies and staff across the University are working to mitigate the consequences of the industrial action.

“We also appreciate that students may support their lecturers who have chosen to go on strike. We agree that our staff are excellent and they deserve fair pay and a good pension.

“Regarding working conditions, at Lancaster, we agreed a sector-leading anti-casualisation policy with our local UCU in November 2019. We offer no zero-hours contracts and have actively moved staff on to open-ended contracts.

“The industrial action is currently taking place at 58 universities across the UK in relation to issues that, in the case of pay and pensions, are negotiated nationally. We are just one of many UK universities involved. This limits how much we can do on our own to bring the dispute to a conclusion.

“The University understands that you may wish to support your lecturers. Please be aware, though, that assessment deadlines and classes taking place in this period won’t be rearranged for students who choose not to attend or submit work in support of strike action. If you’d like to find out more about the dispute, please see these FAQs.

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