Ally Buckle – Why you should support the strikes

In an exclusive piece for The Tab, SU President Ally Buckle says why he supports the strikes, but won’t judge those who cross picket lines.

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University staff are set to strike again tomorrow (Tuesday 3rd) in a row with the University over pay.

The action follows the strike on the 31st October which left some students frustrated at losing their contact hours whilst others helped occupy the Richard Roberts building in solidarity with the protesters.

Now SU President Ally Buckle has written for The Tab on why students should support the second day of strikes.

Would you mess with Buckle?

Strikes are neither enjoyable nor desired. The notion of pitting yourself against your employer, the person who provides you with all the resource you need to exist, is a fearsome proposition.

When you are providing a front-line service such as teaching this headache is further exacerbated, as you are now pitting your value against your student’s educational value. In addition you are agreeing to forgo a day of wages if you choose to strike.

So given all these considerations, why on earth would staff strike? Quite frankly because the cost of living is rising and their salaries aren’t rising with it, pushing more and more university staff closer to the poverty line.

Over the past four years staff in universities have faced an average 13% pay cut in real terms. This years offer of is a 1% rise, set against an inflation rate that has fluctuated between 2.2-2.9% since January.

Striking is not just about individuals, it’s also about solidarity with other members of the workforce within your organisation.

Protesters strike a chord with Ally Buckle. Photo: Ismar Badzic

The two largest ills that the trade unions have identified in the current system are the lack of a living wage for lowest paid staff members, and the fact that the higher education sector, regarded by many as a more progressive and equality based sector than its counterparts, has the highest gender pay gap in the whole public sector.

Despite these factors, many students will question why the SU should support staff. Surely we should be here to care about students and prevent disruption to their education? Leaving compassion aside for a second, there are a plethora of reasons why well valued and more satisfied staff are more important for students in the long run.

We go to university not simply to gather information, but to gather passion, insight and critical thought from academics. If these academics are suffering from low morale and disenchantment then this will reflect upon our education.

The most obvious example of this comes in feedback, as marking will often be the work that is completed outside of paid working hours. The National Student Survey (NSS) results in 2013 saw feedback scoring a mark of 69. Given that no other areas scored below 84, it can be assumed that overworking is creating a serious problem here.

Striking a pose. Photo: Ismar Badzic

Having put forward these arguments, it is important to say that the Students’ Union officers do appreciate that being a member of a students’ union is not the same as being a member of a trade union.

You do not choose to be part of the students’ union, and therefore we represent people with a range of views. We will always encourage students to do things, rather than tell them to, as we know where the boundaries lie. If students feel as though they do not want to miss contact hours, or have an important assessment in, then we would never judge you for attending university on a strike day.