Why I went on strike today

I was on strike today. I wanted to be able to do something that would say loud and clear that what is happening in higher education and across the whole public sector is awful. Today’s dispute was about our pensions, the threatened redundancies and trying to keep our wages from declining in real terms. My union, the UCU has produced some useful leaflets to explain the dispute.


I didn’t manage to make it to the University of Derby picket line this morning but instead went to the University of Leicester one. From what I could see the strike was well supported and campus seemed pretty quiet. It is difficult to tell exactly how much support the strike has got, but there were a decent number of people on the picket lines.


There was also a huge traffic of #ucustrike messages on Twitter. I found this surprising as I didn’t think that the percentage of staff in HE using Twitter was that high, but there seemed to be a lot of interest in the strike online. Lots of people were posting that their campus was pretty dead.


I hope that this action gives the government and HE employers some pause for thought. If we continue to depress pay, sack people and attack pensions higher education is likely to become an increasingly demoralising place to work. People will leave, but worse than that we’ll create a culture where people feel ever more under-valued and grudging. I don’t want to work or study in that kind of environment and I’m really heartened to see that lots of other people felt that today as well.


The decision to go on strike isn’t an easy one. There are lots of little pressures that get put on you to try and persuade you that it isn’t worth it or it isn’t the right thing to do. However, I feel very strongly that it is the right thing to do both morally and politically. As ordinary citizens and employees we don’t have a lot of power and as a consequence we don’t get what we want a lot of the time. However, when people come together and vote to take action I think that we have a duty to support it. Of course there are always a million reasons why we should be an exception to the strike. But once in a while you are asked to put aside your immediate deadlines and priorities and stand together for the good of your colleagues and the sector as a whole. For me it feels pretty clear what the right thing to do is.


Obviously not everyone will agree. I regret the fact that some people feel that trade unions are wrong or that they feel that you should never challenge your employer. But, for these people at least they are taking a stand. I find it more difficult to deal with people who know that the strike is the right thing to do, who believe that the sector should be more assertive, but who make an excuse in order to exempt themselves this time. It feels to me that strike days are one time that you should really follow your moral compass and do the right thing.


Today we achieved something. We made a point, we made the news, we made the government think about just how far they can push higher education. We made all of that happen because lots and lots of people made a difficult personal decision.


That makes me feel pretty good about the people that I work alongside.



  1. I guess we are making some headway but it’s a battle: I am right now engaged in a raging debate with some Tory mums on Mumsnet on cuts to the public services – lots of them are saying the careers service is a waste of money. I know there is research that shows the beneficial effects of careers guidance but wouldn’t be able to find it without a major googling session – if you’ve got a link off the top of your head that I can throw back at them, that would be great!If you want to join Mumsnet (men are allowed) and argue with them directly that would be even better. The debate has been raging for a couple of days and I am tired!

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