Leverage is one of the essential elements of capitalism’s self-proclaimed ability to remunerate people based on what they deserve. If a worker or workforce demand a pay-rise, employers have to make a judgement based on whether they can afford to lose these employees permanently and seek alternative candidates. Much like the how the supply-demand balance dictates the value of products, this is how supply and demand extends to wages and recruitment.
Teachers, lecturers, doctors and nurses are a crucial component of our society
Whether you’re a docker, coal miner or engineer, it is broadly regarded as legitimate to exercise this right and to reap the rewards if your leverage is sufficient, because if it is you are regarded as deserving of this remuneration. The difficult facet of this discussion however is in the case of certain professions, such as medicine or education, where strike action could harm patients and students.
Instead of condemning these professionals as irresponsible and self-centred, we should simply recognise the fact that they have a very significant amount of economic leverage. Teachers, lecturers, doctors and nurses are a crucial component of our society, and they should be payed accordingly – not made to feel guilty for simply requesting what is theirs by right. If this unfair guilt-driven discourse is discarded by people in this country, we would certainly begin to see a much fairer treatment of the people in our society on whom we rely.
When the news of the impending staff strikes first broke on The Tab, I shrugged and cancelled the page. Strikes are a common occurrence in the United Kingdom and I assumed it was just a cycle of waiting until matters blow over till the next strike. However, it slowly dawned upon me that the impact of the strike this round was more drastic on graduating students who are in the midst of preparing for their final-year dissertations, which is the situation I am in.
This scenario is like a war, where the civilians are the ones who suffer the most
As much as I sympathise with the staff on the overall impact they will face regarding pension overhauls, the party that should be pitied and looked out for the most is the graduating cohort. The uncertainty of not getting the necessary support for a month adds undue pressure to the overwhelming burden that a graduating student must shoulder during the critical last lap of university. This scenario is like a war, where the civilians are the ones who suffer the most. In the case of this conflict between Universities and the UCU (University and College Union), it is the students who suffer.
The bitter truth is that even if we throw up our hands in defeat and make excuses of how we are not getting enough support due to the staff strikes, the one held accountable for our grades at the end of the day is still us. Who will have our backs then?
The strikes on campus are certainly the hottest topic at the minute, splitting opinion widely among the more politically active members of the student population. Students find themselves split between those who feel empathy with the lecturers and would go as far as to join them on the picket, and those who feel the lecturers are committing a massive injustice to us as students. I myself would be in the category of the former.
Lecturers are about to be cheated of the security they rely on in old age
There is no doubt that we are paying a lot of our own money towards our education. Despite this, we are potentially now in a position whereby we are cheated of lectures. Of course this is emotive. But the situation stands that our lecturers have earned their pensions, they have worked incredibly hard and they are about to be cheated of the security they rely on in old age. According to the UCU, this would leave the average lecturer up to £10,000 worse off annually.
The union decision last Thursday was more than a vote, as Emily Sherwood, former marginalised genders officer, said in their resignation statement. It was a decision tantamount to the SU being 'a union which acts like one and supports on-campus struggles, or an institution which functions only in the interests of university management.' Neutrality is better than turning our backs, but it still feels like betrayal.