This week, Imperial has been shoved rudely into the modern age by encountering workers’ rights, an issue that has plagued employers since the Black Death wiped out the majority of the peasants. The immediate consequence of this was that the nobles and landlords had to lighten up on the oppression because there weren’t enough serfs to slave in the fields. Over time, the cause of workers rights has been advanced by the threat of violence by revolution or revolt as well as the establishment of unions. Union has almost become a dirty word since their defeat by the Iron Lady in the 1980s, but they probably have had a net beneficial effect for those of us unfortunate enough to have to work for a living.
Apparently, the issue that has brought the meek and mild lecturers onto the streets is that Imperial is now changing its pension system. Beyond that, I, like most of my fellow students, have no idea what is going on. I tried reading the handout that one of the union representatives was aggressively forcing on those of us innocently wandering through Sherfield, but I nearly fell asleep halfway through the words “individual investment scheme.” I have decided, like the rest of the world, that facts are boring and I can rely on the more compelling and probably accurate assertion that the college is evil for attempting to take the pensions away and I should stand with the workers; or at least not resent them too much for robbing me of my education.
The alternative narrative, the one that is completely devoid of empathy and therefore will appeal to physicists, is that, as I own the lecturers because of the substantial tuition fees I pay, they are putting me at a considerable disadvantage for daring to voice these socialist demands. Some have even argued for a refund of fees for the lectures and tutorials missed as the workers of Imperial College crusade for fair treatment, but I’m unsure if they want compensation from the College or the lecturers themselves. This is of course a ridiculous stance to take, as the College would sooner part with a good third of their research staff before refunding students. Heaven forbid that the President should take a pay cut.
This of course follows the general trend of a reduction in standards of pensions worldwide. Carillion, the construction firm, went bust following a gaping hole in its pensions scheme, and BHS employees suffered from a colossal hole in their pension scheme after Philip Green had stripped the company of all its value and used the wealth to build a fleet of yachts and become the king of the sea. I for one welcome this lack of foresight and preparation for old age which will allow further concentration of wealth in the hands of those that are already incredibly wealthy. I mean, being a peasant in pre-plague Europe really wasn’t that bad if you’re a big fan of mud, beatings and no human rights. We just have to hold out for the next round of antibiotic resistant bacteria for society to become equal once more.