After two months of failed negotiations, with university management proposing huge cuts to pensions, university staff will be taking the only action available to them: striking. The staff walkout will begin next Thursday, February 22nd, and will escalate over a four-week period.
You might be worried about the effect this will have on your education. You’re right to be; strikes are disruptive. Rest assured that this is at the front of the minds of both Union volunteers (including the authors of this article) and departmental staff. In the short term, we will be working to minimise the impact on students’ results for exams and major coursework that take place during the strike period. We will also be looking at ways of limiting the impact this will have on end-of-year exams, such as by lobbying departments to amend exam questions.
In spite of these concerns being at the forefront of the debate, last Tuesday the Union voted overwhelmingly in support of our staff in this dispute. While the reasons behind this decision were deeply pragmatic, with the long term interests of students in focus, it’s no wonder that students empathise with the staff on this matter. We too have been at the rough end of College cuts – cuts to operating hours, price hikes, and failure to invest in underperforming essential services such as the Counselling service. This sort of penny-pinching (SCR Breakfast, anyone?), which hugely contributes to Imperial’s poor student and staff satisfaction ratings, is done in spite of a huge annual operating surplus of around £100 million. So whose side could we possibly take: that of College management, for whom profit comes first, or of the staff members who actually deliver our education?
The decision of the Union is a welcome move, as it adds to the mounting pressure on College management to encourage their national body to return to negotiations. However, there is more that students can do.
If, like us, you feel the staff are being treated unfairly, that their action is more than justified, and that you want to do more than just send your #thoughtsandprayers, here are some concrete steps you can take.
Talk to your friends
Explain why this action is taking place and encourage them to support the staff position.
Talk to your lecturers
If you can ask them whether they are taking part in this action, and even encourage them to do so, then that’d be fantastic. Short of this, it would be worth conveying that you support their right to strike, and that while there are short term drawbacks, this action is in the long term interest of both staff and students. If you recognise people on the picket line, make sure to talk to them.
Join us for a show of support
Students will be assembling with staff on the first day of action, Thursday February 22nd at 10 am, at the corner of Imperial College Road and Exhibition Road (near the end of the tunnel from South Kensington station, and Skempton). For more details see the Facebook event.
Help out with picketing
Staff will be picketing all major entrances to College from 7:30am every day of strike action. If you are able to help out even for a short amount of time, whether by standing at the picket line or assisting with student-organised coffee/tea runs, please do so. If in doubt on the day, head to the corner of Imperial College and Exhibition Roads. Please bear in mind that pickets are stictly non-violent, and must adhere to a stringent set of laws.
Write to the Provost
The Provost, James Stirling, is already receiving letters from staff, the UCU, and our Union President on this issue. Help pile on the pressure by dropping him an email that expresses your frustration and your support for our staff members. Students at some other universities have requested partial refunds of tuition fees for the duration of the strike, which you may wish to consider. Urge College to support our staff and get Universities UK to compromise. A letter template can be found here.
Get your parents/guardians to write
Letters to the Provost will be even more impactful coming from our parents/guardians, particularly if you have to pay international fees.
Share this article!
Finally, sharing this article, either with friends in person or on social media, would go a long way to helping spread the message. This is a significant moment for both staff and students; let’s make sure Imperial does its bit.
If you have any queries, or would like to help out further, please email firstname.lastname@example.org