Why strike for higher education?

Posted: 01/11/2013 in News & Analysis, resistance
Tags: , ,

As in other sectors, so in higher education, bosses have increased their incomes through the crisis, while their employees have endured 13% real terms wage cuts (as well as both further increases in their already-more-than-full-time work, and such casualisation that most academics in the UK are precarious workers).

Never cross a picket line

Cultural studies reader Des Freedman struck ‘because 11,641 university employees earn less than the living wage‘. And gender studies professor Nadje Al-Ali highlighted that ‘[t]he most vulnerable and the lowest paid jobs, often part-time and fixed term, are disproportionately held by women and BME colleagues‘.

University administrator Elizabeth Baptiste explained that, at the most basic level, ‘all we ask for is a decent pay increase to enable us to support our families’. But, as e-learning librarian Paul Catherall argued,

This strike is not just about pay, but a chance to oppose the coalition’s wider agenda to completely deregulate our public infrastructure, replacing these sectors with fake commercial interests [private vested interests that are publicly guaranteed] and to show solidarity with sectors such as the probation service and Royal Mail facing catastrophic privatisation and closure today.

Research administrator Freyja Peters and medical sociology professor Catherine Pope observed that universities can afford to pay better; but these problems are compounded and driven by the fact that, as social work lecturer Tom Henri noted, ‘[p]rivate, for-profit education is now big business‘, and public universities are being forced to marketise themselves (with the enthusiastic collaboration of a managerial class that benefits from the corporatisation of education).

  1. I’m not sure the quotation from Nadje Al-Ali does much for solidarity. I imagine it’s meant to be about fairness, but it risks coming across as only secondarily interested in those white men who are also poorly paid. Would it not be worth striking if low pay were just as common but more evenly distributed?

    • samarkeolog says:

      It would, and I’m sure she would say so too. In her complete comment, she makes explicit that the strike is about equality and fairness as well as and on top of the universal problems of poverty and precarity. She’s just pointing out that those problems perpetuate gender and ethnic disadvantage.

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