Academically, this has been a very easy week for me, for my professors have been on strike. This strike has been a long time coming with poster hanging all over campus since I arrived in January. The professors who are striking at Queen Mary are part of the University and College Union, which called the strike against the Universities UK, the body that represents universities and employers in the United Kingdom. The strike is in response to the decision made by the UUK to cut individual pensions by an estimated 200,000 pounds, and has been refusing to negotiate with the union. So the best way for the staff to take action and get negotiations has been to strike. Not only is this a large sum of pension money to be cut, especially with staff in the union paying into their pensions as they work here, but it is the third cut proposed over the past ten years.
The strikes began this past Monday, and if they were to go on as scheduled, a student like me would not have certain classes for the next four weeks. Now as an international student, this was almost exciting to have the days free. Personally, none of my grades or work are being affected as all of my papers are still due when they are due and will still be graded, and with there being no participation grades here, I really have not been affected.
Other students however, are really feeling the consequences of the strike. I have been lucky enough to take part in a couple third year classes here, which is the final year at Queen Mary. These students are incredibly smart and it has been interesting sitting alongside them in class and hearing about their education. But since it is the final months of their university career many of them are writing dissertations and doing final projects, all of which require meeting with professors, who they cannot meet with while they are on strike. From some of the students I have spoken to, they are not too worried as most of them have already put a lot of work into their dissertations, but they are upset that the academic time they are paying for is being cut into, especially at the end of their last year here.
Luckily, since professors have been striking on Monday, the UUK has confirmed they will begin negotiations next Monday regarding the issues at hand! The strike will continue next Monday, but hopefully it will be over before we know it! It has been really incredible seeing these professors and students alongside them take action for what has been unjust. I never thought I would have to brave my way through a picket line around campus just so I could go to the grocery store. I’m hoping that the professors and staff get the response they are looking for, and will be able to resume class as soon as possible. Things are looking up and hopefully Monday’s negotiations will go smoothly!