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Down with that sort of thing

While buying a round of tea in the Students' Union this lunchtime, I noticed that the chap standing next to me was wearing a t-shirt which read:

Students Against Lecture Strike Action - salsa.susu.org

This makes no sense on a number of counts:

  • There is no "Lecture Strike Action", because teaching is proceeding as usual.
  • If they're referring to people with teaching duties, they should be aware that these are called "lecturers". As an aside, if the students can't distinguish between "lecturers" and "lectures", we're doing something seriously wrong.
  • This industrial action is not limited to lecturers, but to all members of AUT and NATFHE, a group which includes research and academic-related staff: librarians, administrative staff, system support staff, and so on
  • The strike action (meaning complete withdrawal of labour) was limited to a single day in March. They're complaining about what AUT/NATFHE distinguishes as "action short of a strike".

The URI doesn't point at anything in particular, redirecting to the SU homepage.

Being a mild-mannered academic, I of course said nothing.

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Ok I'll bite:

a) The NUS debate is a much bigger thing but suffice to say as the person who started the withdrawl process £80,000 per year (now reduced to £50,000) is a huge amount of money to spend on a union who are particularly ineffective and more interested in talking about Palestine than student issues. Most unions remain in because the purchasing consortium savings outweighs the affliation free. In SUSU's case this doesn't happen because we have very large purchasing power on our own.

b) The action short of a strike is for all intents and purposes a strike towards students. Lectures have by and large finished so the majority of interaction with lecturers is marking and exams which are not happening.

c) The role of a students' union is to support their members, many students have seen me, the exec and the sabbs very distressed at the current action. We have students who are facing loosing condition job offers, and conditional post grad course offers due to this action. This is an extremely upsetting burden at an already stressful time of the year for many students.

d) This was not a decision taken lightly and the president of the union met with both Sally Hunt and with the UCEA to try to push them towards a deal. However the actions of the AUT/NATFHE in this situation have been most unhelpful. They balloted for action well before the other unions on the same pay spine had submitted claims, so before the UCEA could possibly have met with them; they then rejected out of hand a 12.6% rise to all unions which 5 of the 7 unions have accepted and continue to press for a 23% rise that would swallow a large portion of money set aside for student support next year. The local AUT also lost support from SUSU after they caused great difficulty for SUSU by claiming in letters to students that we supported the action despite our president having told them repeatedly that we didn't.

e) On your specific points the SALSA thing is to have a nice acronym, the lecturers, lectures seems to have been a cock up at the printers, most of the non-academic staff at the university are in the five support staff unions not involved in the strike, and I've answered the strike/non-strike point above.

Esentially despite other comments, this isn't SUSU being especially right wing (the current president being a Labour party member) this is SUSU fulfiling its legal obligation to put our members interests first despite being sympathetic to the real pay problems across HE (not just in academics).

The unions balloted for action well before the other unions precisely to give the employers time to come to talks - which they refused to do. And frankly criticising Academic unions for independently submitting pay claims to support staff is a nonsense. Following this logic, nurses and consultants would have to submit to the same process in the NHS.

Except that nurses and consultants aren't on a single pay spine that they all need to agree to. So it's hardly nonsense to criticise them for submitting an early pay claim and starting action when they knew the employers couldn't meet. The only other conclusion is that they wanted the employers to break the single pay spine and give the lecturer's unions more than everyone else; that seems rather like screwing over your collegues.

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