‘Unity is strength’: Staff and Student Solidarity Meeting on supporting the strikes

‘We want a more active student presence’


Lancaster Students Support Strikes put on a solidarity meeting today in George Fox where staff and students could come and show support for the strike action commencing next week.

The meeting consisted of lecturer Jacob Phelps, from the Lancaster Environment Centre department, giving a talk on the reasons behind the UCU strikes, the impacts on students, and how students can, and should, show support.

Students are encouraged to show their physical support by visiting the picket lines 8:30-10 am, emailing support to striking lecturers, and having open conversations with friends and peers about supporting the strikes.

Reasons for the strikes

There are many reasons why UCU staff are striking. The first being an “attack on pensions” in which Jacob explained how staff are “asked to put more into pensions to get less” in which there is a 35 per cent cut in pension benefits.

Another reason for the strikes is “unsustainable workloads” where nationally the “average university worker performs two days/week unpaid labour” and more than “50 per cent show probable signs of depression”.

Additionally, staff are striking because more than “one third of academic staff are now on temporary and zero hour contracts”.

Impact on staff and students

Jacob went onto say how deciding to strike is “a hard decision” for staff because they don’t get paid, there is “concern for our students”, and there is “pressure from management”.

Jacob continued by saying that these matters are “not trivial things” and that it “sucks for us, it sucks for you” and that striking is “a last resort”.

As a result of the strikes, students will “not be assessed on missed content” and “lectures may be cancelled, with or without notice”.

How students can show support

Jacob said that there are lots of ways students can get involved in the strike action, such as sending emails to lecturers to let them know you are supporting their decision to strike.

He stressed how important it is for students to show their visible and physical support by visiting the picket lines. He said: “Our values need to have a physical body” and that they want “an active body of students”.

Also, as a way to encourage his students down to the picket line, Jacob said: “I invited my module down to the picket lines then we’ll go into town for a pint”.

Student voices in supporting the strikes

We spoke to some students during the meeting about they’re supporting the strike action.

Will Gedling, second year sociology student, said that we as students “understand the neglect of the bosses” and the “mental damage” that is caused.

He continued: “This strike isn’t staff vs students”, it’s against university “management”. He also encouraged students to show support as “unity is strength”.

Joe Simpkins, one of the students hosting the event, also emphasised the importance of students showing their support as he said “we want a more active student presence”.

Anya Nanning Ramamurthy, another member of “Lancaster Uni support the strikes”, said: “If staff working conditions were improved and they don’t have to worry about feeding their families then there will be a better quality of teaching. We see and understand their struggles.”

University comment

A Lancaster University spokesperson said: “A small number of staff at Lancaster University are participating in national industrial action which sees 68 UK universities take part in strike action.

“The action follows two separate national ballots in November 2021 – one over the recent USS pension valuation, and one over sector pay and working conditions –  in which UCU members voted in favour of taking strike action across a number of universities.

“Staff across the University are taking steps to try to ensure there is as little disruption as possible for students during this time. As not all staff are members of the staff union the impact of the strike will be varied across different parts of the University. Where disruption has been unavoidable we are deeply sorry.

“Departments are notifying students how they can obtain help and advice during the industrial action and those students with concerns specific to their programme should approach a member of department such as their Programme Director or Supervisor.”

For more information on how you can show support for the strikes, you can contact Lancs Students Support Strikes here.

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