‘We’ve got the same enemies’: Students at the picket lines on supporting the strikes

‘Learning conditions and teaching conditions are the same’

On Monday morning, students joined the academic staff on the picket lines outside the sports centre, supporting them in their strikes against pension cuts. We spoke to the students amidst cancelled lectures and seminars, asking them why they chose to join this movement and what other students could do to support the UCU.

‘We’ve got the same enemies’

Students seemed to have similar responses when asked why they were supporting the strike; one student said: “We shouldn’t individualise our experience, we have a lot in common with strikers as wee with the way the university management treated us during the rent strikes and we should show solidarity”.

Another student agreed with this sentiment and said: “Management fuck us over as much as they fuck over staff, so it’s sort of a common cause. [Staff] have previously supported us on issues such as the rent strikes, so essentially it is just solidarity.”

Solidarity was a key reason for students who wanted to stand by the staff and show their support as they had done for students during the rent strikes in 2021.

‘Management has actively tried to drive a wedge between staff and students’

One student suggested that support from the students is important due to the “wedge” being driven between staff and students, continuing that it is clear from “the kind of emails” the university send to students.

They said: “[The university] often say ‘don’t worry we’ll look out for your education despite staff strikes’ so there is a very real and malicious element from staff that is just trying to maintain income rates.”

Students at the strike appear to sympathise with the staff; one said: “We need to understand how much staff really do love teaching, from the seminar tutors to the lecturers, to the long-term professors here. This is a really hard position for them, and I think a lot of students do recognise that and are very aware of how hard a decision this is for the staff.”

‘They are staff at unis because they care about the education system’

However, students were also focused on the education system as a whole and making it better for students in the future.

One student said: “To have a better and healthier education system for students and staff, these demands need to be met”.

Therefore, students should be concerned about the next generations that will inevitably pass through the education system and should not face the same situation.  

They said: “Think about the end cause we’re trying to get to. It’ll have a much better impact for students than what we’re going through now”.

They felt that strikes would be worthwhile if they ensured a better education system for future students.

‘In order for there to be change, disruption does have to happen’

Students face many disturbances due to the cancellation of lectures and seminars. However, one student we interviewed told us they had been assured that any content missed due to strikes would not be assessed.

“You come to university to learn,” they said, but it is still important to remember that “people’s livelihoods are more important, and you’ve just got to understand that staff don’t want to do this”.

‘How students feel about these strikes is very much important to staff members’

When asked how other students can best support the strikes, they said: “The best ways to support are showing up to the picket, sending emails to lecturers” as well as “write to your lecturers and encourage them to strike, write to management to let them know how appalled you are at the treatment and the lack of action from them.”

There were also students from Lancs Solidarity present at the strikes who were encouraging students to support the strikes and their fellow students by following “@lancsolidarity on Instagram and everything else, we run stuff like open meetings, we do banner making, we’ve got more plans that we want to do, but we can’t do because of numbers”.

A Lancaster University spokesperson said: “A small number of staff at Lancaster University are participating in this week’s 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 several 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 strike’s impact 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.”

To keep up to date with the strikes taking place in Lancaster over the coming weeks, visit Lancaster University’s UCU blog for regular updates.

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