18 February 2018

Upcoming strike

I've never striked in my life! I only became a member of the union in Bangor. But now I am a member, and there is a strike coming up. An enormous big fat one! The unions don't like what the universities are doing with our pensions. I admit I haven't read upon the details, but it looks like they are indeed at peril. I was a bit too busy being grateful I had a job to start with to consider my pension too much! But then the union does that in my place, and you can't avoid it. Not that avoiding informing yourself on your pension is such a good thing to start with.

So will I strike? Will I strike the whole period? Will I just sit at home and secretly do the work anyway? I don't know! The problem is that it is the entire education sector that the unions want to put pressure on. And the only way through which I can do that is through putting pressure on the students. But it's nothing to do with them! It feels wrong to disadvantage them. But I can't really disadvantage anyone else.

So now what? I know that in the long run I am better off with a good pension, but it's difficult to now not focus on the short term. My options now are: strike. That means: missing lectures by my fellow teaching staff on Climate and Climate Change, missing meetings on changing teaching, miss a CV clinic for students I had promised, miss several student events where I am supposed to convince them all to fill out the National Student Survey (it's important in this country!), miss my own tutorial in the Communicating Science module, miss one or more meeting with my personal tutees, miss meetings with my dissertation student, miss a Board of Studies meeting, miss exam feedback sessions, miss a practical, miss Jeff's seminar, and God knows what else ends up being planned there in the meantime. It's not even so much as my Climate and Climate Change module will not have any contact hours by me in that period. Oh and I can't mark my students' essays either, of course! Or prepare for upcoming teaching. And upcoming other tasks (to do with Peer Guides, for instance). At least not then. The work will have to be done anyway. And it also means I lose half a monthly wage in a time that's the most expensive one I have ever lived through, what with the house and all. So I disappoint my students, get no money and end up with twice the work after the strike. Doesn't sound nice!

Or I turn scab. I can, of course. But having immersed myself in Welsh culture has made crystal clear that's not the done thing around here. Remember the big quarrymen's strikes! These are very far from forgotten around here. And the stigma of scab (bradwr, or cynffonnwr, in Welsh) is very alive. When I mentioned the strike to my Climate and Climate Change students they were not upset about teaching perhaps not taking place, but one student immediately pointed out I cannot turn scab. And especially when moving to Bethesda! Oh dear. What to do?

I can also do something in between; not go to work but secretly work at home. But working for no money with poor facilities and doused in shame doesn't sound too attractive either.

I think that's the problem with being academic staff. So open to exploitation as the idea of striking is so fraught with difficulties! Watch this space...

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