QMUL started week two of the pensions and pay and equality strikes with a bang—quite literally, as dozens of staff descended on the picket line at Mile End armed with pots, pans and spoons.
Although our musical potential remains as of yet unfulfilled, we managed to make ourselves heard—by both students and management—and built up enormous energy on the picket line. The music [sic.] was accompanied by some amazing speakers. Ex-QMUL student Caoimhe Mader McGuinness (Kingston, Unis Resist Border Controls) explained how universities policed border with the university, with Safieh Kabir (Undoing Borders campaign from People and Planet) took Caoimhe’s analysis further and explained how we can begin to fight back.
Safieh also led the chants on college green in front of the Queen’s Building, helping us bring the noise during the final bit of our action. Safieh and Caoimhe were joined by Sharri Plonski from SPIR, who explained the difficulties of casualisation in early career academic posts and what it feels like to juggle this with additional childcare responsibilities. The action was rounded off by the indefatigable Neve Gordon, who brought more energy! Neve and his colleagues were integral in publishing a letter about emphasising the centrality of pensions in our current dispute:
QMUCU members also expressed their solidarity with staff and students facing extreme state repression and jumped up changes of sedition at Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU):
Today was a great way to start the week—let’s make sure we keep the energy up for the final two days. Here’s what we have planned tomorrow:
At 12-2 we have Feminism for the 99% in the University and Beyond (fb event found here: https://www.facebook.com/events/511895752870711/
The UCU strikes will start on 25th November, coinciding with the international day against male violence on women. This day (and the weekend before it) will also see feminist demonstrations taking place in many cities around the world to protest against all sorts of violence perpetrated against women, and represents one of the key events in preparation for the feminist strike of the 8th March 2020. We want to draw parallels between the feminist mobilizations and the UCU strikes.
As stressed by UCU, the strike is over pay, pensions, job security, equality pay gaps and unsustainable workloads. On top of facing pay inequalities, women and black and minority ethnic members of staff are much more likely to be employed precariously. Moreover, they often have higher workloads than their male colleagues. This is in part because administrative and care work (tutoring, supervising, taking care of students in visit days etc, dealing with various other administrative tasks) are unfairly divided along the axes of gender, sexuality, race and ethnicity. Duties and roles at work mirror and reproduce the same duties and roles in place in the domestic sphere (at home) and society at large.
The still prevalent sexist, racist and queer-hostile climate at universities reinforces our structural vulnerability. But we are not giving up, we are closing ranks, building solidarity and sisterhood and fighting back! So, for all of these reasons, join the strike! To us and for everyone, it is an anti-racist feminist strike!
This is followed on Wednesday by:
With a reading of Wind / Rush Generation, a play written by Mojisola Adebayo
AntiCas Teach Out
What has happened to university careers?
With up to 54% of HE academic staff employed on insecure contracts it is becoming increasingly clear that fixed-term contracts have become the predominant form of employment for early to mid-career staff in higher education.
Of course some people manage to get permanent employment but many, many more struggle to stay in their chosen profession while others leave and seek alternative careers. It is not a level playing field. Women, people of colour and those with disabilities are far more likely to be working on casualised contracts.
The increase in precarious work drives down pay and conditions for all staff. On top of this all the invisible labour, such as marking, preparation, meetings and pastoral work exacerbates the exploitation. Casualisation feeds the gender, disability and race pay gap and affects choices about whether to have a family. It also fuels the silence over the high incidence of sexual harassment in our institutions as casualised women fear losing work if they speak out. We need our employers to acknowledge these inequalities and commit to working with UCU to improve conditions for all staff.
Here at QMUCU we are developing a pay claim for staff on precarious fixed term contracts to ensure more staff are given permanent contracts that offer security and a real opportunity to develop a career. To do this we need your help. We are using data from our last survey on casualisation but need more information. If you are on a fixed term contract (or just want to find out how to support your colleagues who are) join us to help develop this claim. We need to know what your experience is here at QMUL so our claim reflects the reality at our university.
It’s vital to agree a collective way forward and that means taking account of the problematic disparities across departments. If you can, bring your contract with you, to help inform our discussion.
Can’t make it? Join our campaign list to get involved! http://bit.ly/QMACcampaign
With thanks to Christina Paine (UCU Anti-casualisation Committee and NEC member) https://uculeft.org/2018/06/another-education-is-possible-spring-2018-the-casualised-at-the-heart-of-the-union/