Why I’m On Strike #2

As part of our strike action, we’ll be hearing from CUCU members about why they’re on strike. So far, we’ve heard from Priya, Áine, and Eleanor about why these disputes matter to them. Today, Tom, a research associate at the Centre for the Study of Existential Risk, tells us why he’s been out on the pickets:

I’m on strike today, as hopefully everyone knows, to protect my pension and the pensions of my colleagues across the university and across the country. Next week, we’ll be on strike for pay and conditions, and again, that’s at this university and across the sector. That’s to make sure we address casualisation (as it’s politely called) or precarity (as it might more accurately be called) as well as other things, including the gender pay gap, the race pay gap, and the disability pay gap. 

I think it’s important to see all these things as connected to each other, or it is for me anyway, and that’s what motivates me to be out here. It’s not just about looking after my own retirement, or my own ability to have a half-decent contract – or, who knows, even a decent one someday. It’s about making sure we stand alongside all our colleagues and comrades across this university and across the country.

If it were up to the national regulator, if it was up to the senior management at this university, we would lose our pensions; or we would certainly have them severely harmed. If it was up to national regulators, national employers, we would have worse working conditions and poorer pay. It is at these times – both outside of the strike, when we take other forms of action, but especially in strikes – we see this antagonism crystallized: between what the workers’ interests are, or their rights should be, and what our bosses would subject us to if we didn’t come out on strike.

But it’s more about the recognition that lots of us are in variously precarious positions, and a lot of people across the country – a lot of academics who’ve put ten years into their training – can’t plan to pay their rent, because universities are forcing them into ten-month contracts that they have to reapply for every year. So the short version of that is that being out on strike is about solidarity. It’s about standing together in the recognition that an injury to one is an injury to all.