Strike FAQ

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What is the strike about?

The UCU is engaged in two disputes with the employers' body, Universities UK: one concerns the serious restriction of our pension rights as a result of dubious valuations of the pension fund, and the other concerns the 'four fights', for fair pay, for a reasonable workload and for gender and ethnic equality, and against the increasing casualisation that blights the career of young academic colleagues. I encourage undergradute and graduate students to support the union in its fight for fair pay and conditions. I am sorry for the inconvenience if Spivey's Corner is not available when you want it, but any blame should be laid at the university's door, not mine. If materials are not available that you need for your course, then that is the fault of the Department for not making proper provision for your learning, not mine for no longer filling the gaps with my voluntary efforts.

Last time industrial action was taken the students' union NUS issued a statement in support of the strike, and I hope they will do so again this time.

What are the dates of the strike?

The strike will take place on [needs updating].

Will you be joining the strike?

It is part of the rules governing strike action that no notice need be given to an employer whether an employee will participate in a strike or not. In fact, an employee does not have to declare to the employer whether he or she is a member of a trade union or not, and employees can join the union at the last minute if they want to strike and enjoy the union's protection against unfair dismissal. So I decline to say in advance whether I will be joining the strike.

I am not giving lectures this term, but will be doing so next term. If the strike is still going on, then in order to give the best service to students (who I hope are on the union's side), I will set out my plans in the event that some lectures do not take place. With luck, the strike will be called off because the employers side will agree to sensible talks.

I've seen you around college: why are you not on strike?

The action is against the University, not against colleges, partly because it would be impractical to ballot the UCU members in each individual college. So, during the strike, I will still be meeting students and giving tutorials, both for Oriel students directly, and for the students of other colleges whom I teach as part of an arrangement between colleges.

Aren't you amply rewarded for the work you do?

I think so. But the point of industrial action is that workers take it in a united way. Though my pay comfortably supports my way of life and that of my family, and my conditions of employment leave me feeling secure, there are many younger colleagues who are not in this fortunate position: paid too little to afford to live in Oxford, and kept on short-term contracts that offer them no real job security. It is for their sake that I want to be involved.

Isn't it unfair to punish users of your website because of a dispute that doesn't concern them?

If you are involved in education, then the dispute does concern you, as Oxford students recognised last time the union took strike action. They realise that some of their best teachers have inadequate pay and untenable conditions of employment, and realise that the continuation of outstanding university education in Oxford is not viable unless pay and conditions improve. Everyone is involved in education to some extent, if only by enjoying the fruits of the research that is done in universities or benefiting from the skills of those educated there. But besides that, you are not being punished, just helped to appreciate the value of what is provided, free for all to use, as a side-product of my working for the university.

You say that the dispute does not involve colleges, but the web server for Spivey's Corner has a college address under oriel.ox.ac.uk. Shouldn't you keep it going during the strike?

Spivey's Corner is not maintained as part of my employment with the college; neither is it my duty to maintain it as part of my employment with the university.