University staff deserve better – we must support them

By Jack Ballingham, Durham Student-Worker Solidarity

From the 25th of November to the 4th of December, academic and support staff at Durham, and across the country, will go on strike. This strike is about five important issues: changes to pensions that would leave staff an average of £240,000 worse off, a fall in pay by 21% in real terms, casualised employment contracts (which 66% of Durham staff are employed on), unmanageable workloads, and the gender and BAME pay gap. 

It is commonly asked why students should support staff on strike; after all, we’re paying over £9000 a year for our education. But this misses the point: students are not customers, and the labour of staff is not the product you buy. Our learning is the product of their labour. 

Our learning is the product of their labour

Teaching and support staff put their effort into giving us an education and deserve a good deal at work. Not only that, but casualisation and poor pay affect students’ education; staff on secure and well-paid contracts provide the best teaching, as well as having better pay and a healthier work experience. 

Unfortunately, many Durham staff do not benefit from this, and that is exactly why it is crucial that students support them in their fight. This strike is a dispute with Durham University, and as members of the academic community, and as the people who benefit from their work, students’ backing is absolutely essential for sending a message to the University that staff deserve good pay and a secure job, not to mention a decent pension that isn’t stripped of £240,000. 

So, what can students do to show our support for striking staff? The first and most important action is to show our support directly, on the picket line. A picket line is essentially a protest by those on strike outside their workplace, and this is where you’ll find the people who deliver your lectures, lead your tutorials and mark your work, fighting for a good deal. 

What can students do to show our support for striking staff?

Durham University and College Union’s (UCU) picket lines will be from 8am until 10am every day of the strike, with the main ones at the Science Site and Elvet Riverside. Make a sign or a banner and come along to a picket to stand alongside staff. 

Durham Student-Worker Solidarity will be there every day, along with various student groups, and everybody is welcome and encouraged to join us! Besides picketing, striking staff will deliver “teach-outs”; lectures on various topics delivered outside the University environment. 

Come along to a picket to stand alongside staff

As well as this, Durham Student-Worker Solidarity is organising a fundraising bake sale, at Bean Social on Saturday the 30th of November. You can also find details on how to donate directly to the UCU’s Fighting Fund at ucu.org.uk/fightingfund

To keep up to date with all the events going on during the strike, follow Durham Student-Worker Solidarity and Durham UCU on Facebook, @DSWSolidarity on Instagram, and @ucuatdurham and @durhamcasuals on Twitter, and we’ll see you on the picket line! 

Image by triton. via Creative Commons.

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