I have been notified by the local branch of the Universities and Colleges Union, of which I am a member, that we’ll be ballotted shortly on strikes and “action short of a strike” in connection with the “restructuring” (aka large cuts, everyone being forced to reapply for their own jobs, etc etc) in the Faculty of Biological Sciences.

Tough one, this.

– On principle, I don’t believe lecturers should take strike action that significantly disadvantages students. Our job isn’t exactly a matter of life and death, but we do hold power in relation to a major once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for young people. It’s not like refuse collectors going on strike (as they did, for several weeks, in Leeds last year) – in that case, the inconvenience is real, but it’s temporary, and the system can “catch up” later. But if I deliberately fail to mark my students’ exams, or to show up to teach them, or to answer their emails, they are never getting that semester (and those results, and those life opportunities) back. And, thinking politically for a little while, I think they’re unlikely to support me as strongly as the people of Leeds supported the refuse collectors.

– On principle, however, I joined the union because I wanted to stand up for my colleagues (or, at the very least, help to pay for someone to stand up for them), in the knowledge that I might need them to stand up for me. So I don’t want to abandon colleagues in FBS if they are calling for a strike. (It gets more, rather than less, complicated when the issue is in no sense about me).

As usual, the devil will be in the detail; when, what, for how long? I have various ideas for ‘actions short of a strike’ that would not disadvantage students, but fear they would not grab headlines and so are unlikely to be on the list of options.


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