Are there reasons not to strike?
Yesterday, we saw the best turnout in our recent history, with the largest picket force we’ve ever seen at Leeds, further reinforced by students who offered moral support from as early at 7am.
Many stand to lose up to £10,000 in each year of retirement. If you hope to be retired for twenty-five years, thats £250,000. Is that not worth striking for? Our students seem to think so – last year, remember, the LUU executive then put out a campaign to try to convince us to vote ‘no’ in a dispute ballot. But, nonetheless, the results of their own poll revealed that the majority of them supported the right to strike. Yesterday the current LUU exec released a statement: “Industrial action has the potential to disrupt students. However we believe that the UCU has a strong case and they have worked positively with us to minimize harmful effects on students’ education.” (http://www.leedsuniversityunion.org.uk/news/article/website/2295/)
So, the only reasons not to strike it seems are these:
a.) Only in a UCU situation do you ignore your colleague’s democratic decisions and the students’ support.
b.) You are only a union member as insurance – it is only important when you personally are directly affected.
c.) You are ideologically opposed to industrial action, for whatever reasons.
d.) You think there is no point – industrial action doesn’t work, you claim.
e.) You are in fear of your job and you don’t want to rock the boat
f.) Other possible personal reasons – we’d be happy to talk.
History shows that industrial does work. Last year broadcast journalists faced a similar threat to their pensions. They took strike action, and won substantial gains. Last year we threatened strike action, and got everything we asked for, two years before that we took strike action, and we all got the RPI+3% pay increase. The history of our welfare state and the general improvement in working conditions could not have happened without trade union activism. The evidence against the ‘no point’ argument is overwhelming. We might not like going on strike, but sometimes we are left with no choice – this is one of those times.
The detriment to our future colleagues – our current PhD students – is worth striking against. As soon as a two tier pension is created – with many of us with our current pension provision sitting in staff meetings next to those on considerably less – then we risk the employers wanting to ‘rationalise’ the system, downgrading ours to the system only our future colleagues now face. If you don’t want to strike for your future colleagues, do at least recognise that your pension is at risk too from future manoeuvres.
If you still choose, for whatever reason, not to support your colleagues and the majority student view by not striking tomorrow, please remember that strikers’ lost salaries are going to the student hardship fund – perhaps consider giving 2/365ths of your salary to that, or give it to the UCU hardship fund (via Sue Redhead) which will be used to compensate hourly-paid or part-time colleagues who stand to lose considerably more than 2/365ths.
For those of you who are being bullied or are in fear of losing your job or suffering some detriment from going on strike, we understand only too well because many of us have been or are still in that situation too. That is one of the main reasons the union exists – to the collectivise our individual strength to defend members from unemployment, from exploitation, discrimination and bullying. We can only do this if we are strong, and not going on strike only strengthens the employer and their power over you. Striking is also empowering and you will meet more of your fellow union members and draw strength from their solidarity.
Yesterday’s strike had impact. Over 60 of your colleagues joined the picket lines in solidarity with you, and to save your pension and rights. Tomorrow is the largest FE+HE strike in history. It is supported by students around the country, and will have the largest turnout, we anticipate, in history. A lot is at stake. Will you be at your desk, in a lecture hall, or where your UCU colleagues and students want you to be?