Today’s strike diary comes from Matt Green, UoN UCU Branch President
The week is off to a good start. Not only have we heard updates on new talks, not only has social media again been aflame with determined strikers, but also we’ve arrived at the point in the year when traveling to the picket line can take place in daylight hours. The day dawned frosty but bright as I stepped out the front door en route to visit our Sutton Bonington picket line.
For those who haven’t been out that way, the picket line at SB is a heartening experience. The picketers are a welcoming bunch. Their good will and cheer is accompanied by resolution and they have a way of cutting to the heart of what’s at stake in the current dispute.
Conversation began with one longstanding picketer explaining what he saw as the heart of the four fights dispute. In short, he said that in five years time he wants to be able to offer congratulations rather than commiserations to new entrants to academia. His story, of concern for PhD students seeking to enter the profession of course resonates across disciplines. Such are the obstacles on the way to an open-ended contract, and the challenges facing new entrants to the profession, that it is becoming increasingly difficult to encourage students to pursue dreams of an University career.
Talk then turned to pensions, with picketers expressing concerns over new staff effectively being priced out of the USS by the relentless increases in contribution ratings, a state of play that harms us all.
Overall, though, despite the challenges we are facing, the prospect of further talks this week and solid showings on the picket lines give much cause for optimism. We find ourselves at a turning point for Higher Education and while the risks are daunting, success will see genuine change for the better across the sector.