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What do people think of the Lecturers' industrial action?

Do you think Lecturers industrial action is justified?  

79 members have voted

  1. 1. Do you think Lecturers industrial action is justified?

    • Yes
      39
    • No
      40


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As a senior lecturer at the University I have followed this thread with interest. One thing I'd like to stress is that not all academics are on strike action - so please don't tar all academics/lecturers with the same brush! I'm not an AUT member, the recent strike action has confirmed that I never will be. I also know a number of AUT members who are refusing to adhere to the strike action because they, like me, find the whole idea of using students as political pawns professionally abhorrent - one of my mates has cancelled his AUT direct debit as a result of this action.

 

Bear in mind that only 41% of AUT members voted in favour of this action. A lot of academics, like myself, are continuing to set exams and take part in assessment activities - in some cases we're doing extra to cover for our AUT colleagues in order to ensure that our undergraduates do graduate this summer!

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As this forum is 'a hotel with fairly liberal house rules', I'm the stranger walking into the bar to be greeted with curious stares from the locals! I've been scouring this interweb thing looking for somewhere like this where there's some informed debate on this subject going on, as I need some advice. My situation is this:

 

I'm a part-time lecturer at a university other than Sheffield. I don't belong to the AUT; AUT membership seems to be at about one-third of the staff at the institution in question, although I'm not sure of the exact figure. My relationship with my full-time colleagues and what I can't help thinking of as 'my' students is excellent and very positive on all sides. My aim is to increase my commitment to this institution if circumstances allow.

 

I've now learned that this industrial action has led the university to look elsewhere for coursework script markers. I've recently been contacted by the department for which I work to ask if I would be able to do this.

 

I'm now faced with a quandary. Fundamentally I think that the needs of the students come first and that I should accept this request. What I have no idea about, however, is, whether this will cause ill-will among my full-time colleagues. While we get on very well, my presence at the university is of course intermittent, so I don't tend to pick up on this kind of thing.

 

What I'd hope for is that those involved in the industrial action won't have their case weakened by obliging the university to bring in external markers. If anything, it should strengthen it - after all, I'd be paid to do this marking, as will all the other people in my position, so why not just give this money to the staff?! Then again, I've no reason to suppose my full-time colleagues would share that view. Might they not simply expect me to show solidarity by turning this work down? I would ask them directly, but I'd come up against the usual observer's paradox in that by asking I'm effectively stating my position.

 

I could, I suppose, be accused of hypocrisy, but as my main interest is in teaching students (I've already done my share of research - 30 years of it! - within my chosen industry, so therefore already know everything:hihi: ) it's important to me that my contract is renewed, thus enabling me to continue to put students' needs first - which is where we came in. However, in order to maximise the likelihood of that happening, I also need to retain the support of my full-time colleagues.

 

Any advice - especially from full-time academic staff who can give me a idea on the general feeling on this issue - would be greatly appreciated. Thanks.

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Thanks for your post, babychickens.

 

I accept what you're saying, and fully agree with your point that people should in general be paid more. Especially those in the emergency services and other people who should definitely be rewarded for the hard work they put in, such as your mother.

 

I just find it hard in a world where some footballers earn ridiculous sums of money (sometimes several times a person's annual income in one day!) for kicking a ball round a field and being on tv. Oh the hardship. And yet I see people like my mother and yours who are clearly putting in their all and getting very little. That's the main reason this strike irritated me. You can't tell me that being a lecturer is as hard as being a primary school teacher.

 

Both my parents have been off work with depression due to the types of kids they've had to put up with in their classes - sometimes kids that will go on the rampage and lash out at other kids. There is very little support for teachers who have kids like that because of limited funding in schools. The school my mother's in has had to cut down on the number of teachers cos they have such a pathetic budget. That was my point about the government.

 

Ah well. It's the same with anything. The rich get richer and the poor get poorer.

 

are you really saying being a top class footballer is easy? Surely they have to put in extensive training every day to even keep at the fitness levels required to compete at that level. Maybe they are overpaid but I dont think the jobs easy. And I dont think you would suggest being an olympic standard rower is an easy job because all they do is row boats all day.

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What like 40 days, 5 of which are directed days to be taken over Christmas? That leaves me with 35 days to take, and not when I please. We have to be in over August for enrolments and other activities.

 

My friend who works in an admin position for the police gets exactly the same leave as I do.

 

Hmm.. not the best way to keep sympathy levels up. Average annual leave in the private sector (ex-bank holidays) is 20 days. And there's bugger all pay differential too.

 

Don't get me on to pensions...

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Average annual leave in the private sector (ex-bank holidays) is 20 days.

 

Really? What is your source for this?

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No resolution yet I'm afraid: http://www.aut.org.uk/index.cfm?articleid=1655

 

Before you start moaning that the Unions are being greedy- 12.6% spread over the next 3 years is basically the equivalent of the yearly automatic cost of living increase of approx 3% per year (unless Uni staff would have received cost of living increases in addition to this pay offer...?)

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Excellent post babychickens.

 

The Universities org, UCEA, had the opportunity to meet with the the University and FE staff unions (AUT and NATFHE) on Tuesday this week (25th April). The UCEA refused to meet with the unions AGAIN prolonging the strike action even further!!!.

 

In this news item from the AUT, it suggests that the UCEA is aware that their pevious pay 'offer' of 6% (3% this year and 3% next year) was inadequate: http://www.aut.org.uk/index.cfm?articleid=1624

 

Another point to remember is that alhough the spotlight is on lecturers pay, research staff and academic related staff are also underpaid (we earn nothing near the £30,000+ that lecturers are paid and work right through the summer holidays!) and stand a chance to see well deserved pay rises as a result of the 'short of a strike' industrial action. The AUT covers researchers and academic-related staff too- many of my colleagues are taking part in the strike action.

 

Do you really think postdocs will get a pay rise? Last time the uni I work at was supposed to increase my pay (from the pay and reward migration pot) they took it out of the research grant for my post instead and there is nothing that can be done to stop this (my boss tried to argue). I am not convinced the research grant has enough money to support the sort of payrises aut are talking about, so I wonder if the lecturers will all get hefty pay rises whilst the rest of us are left behind. Thats assuming the lecturers get anything of course.

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Do you really think postdocs will get a pay rise? Last time the uni I work at was supposed to increase my pay (from the pay and reward migration pot) they took it out of the research grant for my post instead and there is nothing that can be done to stop this (my boss tried to argue). I am not convinced the research grant has enough money to support the sort of payrises aut are talking about, so I wonder if the lecturers will all get hefty pay rises whilst the rest of us are left behind. Thats assuming the lecturers get anything of course.

 

as far as i'm aware, postdocs in some departments do do lectures, although whether this is part of their contract or not I don't know - personally I don't even do demonstrating out of the lab anymore for the simple reason it isn't in my contract to do any teaching. I wouldn't mind flexing the contract if I hadn't had massive issues with the University over back pay a couple of years ago that got quite messy...haven't trusted the university's ability to do anything right since. consequently, no - I don't think postdocs will get a pay rise, even if they do teach, because teaching isn't usually part of postdocs' contracts. Even if we do, I would fully expect the pay increases to be funded by shortening research contracts, but this is only a medium-term problem anyway - hopefully by the next time most of us are applying for grants the pay dispute will have been resolved and any grants will be increased to cover the pay rises.

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My guess is that will end up with about 15% over three years, which is somewhere near midway between the 12.6% they have been offered and the 20% they are demanding. Could be wrong though.

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As this forum is 'a hotel with fairly liberal house rules', I'm the stranger walking into the bar to be greeted with curious stares from the locals! I've been scouring this interweb thing looking for somewhere like this where there's some informed debate on this subject going on, as I need some advice. My situation is this:

 

I'm a part-time lecturer at a university other than Sheffield. I don't belong to the AUT; AUT membership seems to be at about one-third of the staff at the institution in question, although I'm not sure of the exact figure. My relationship with my full-time colleagues and what I can't help thinking of as 'my' students is excellent and very positive on all sides. My aim is to increase my commitment to this institution if circumstances allow.

 

I've now learned that this industrial action has led the university to look elsewhere for coursework script markers. I've recently been contacted by the department for which I work to ask if I would be able to do this.

 

I'm now faced with a quandary. Fundamentally I think that the needs of the students come first and that I should accept this request. What I have no idea about, however, is, whether this will cause ill-will among my full-time colleagues. While we get on very well, my presence at the university is of course intermittent, so I don't tend to pick up on this kind of thing.

 

What I'd hope for is that those involved in the industrial action won't have their case weakened by obliging the university to bring in external markers. If anything, it should strengthen it - after all, I'd be paid to do this marking, as will all the other people in my position, so why not just give this money to the staff?! Then again, I've no reason to suppose my full-time colleagues would share that view. Might they not simply expect me to show solidarity by turning this work down? I would ask them directly, but I'd come up against the usual observer's paradox in that by asking I'm effectively stating my position.

 

I could, I suppose, be accused of hypocrisy, but as my main interest is in teaching students (I've already done my share of research - 30 years of it! - within my chosen industry, so therefore already know everything:hihi: ) it's important to me that my contract is renewed, thus enabling me to continue to put students' needs first - which is where we came in. However, in order to maximise the likelihood of that happening, I also need to retain the support of my full-time colleagues.

 

Any advice - especially from full-time academic staff who can give me a idea on the general feeling on this issue - would be greatly appreciated. Thanks.

 

Personally this wouldn't bother me - as you say, the University would have to pay you to do the marking, and in a way it would be shooting themselves in the foot - once the exams are over there would be less anti-lecturer feelings from the students, so many lecturers may feel more able to carry on with their action short of a strike until the next set of exams, with less feelings of guilt about messing the students around. From what you've written you're fully qualified to do so, but my worry would be that if the universities start paying unqualified external markers the students will suffer more than just late graduation/exam marks.

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as far as i'm aware, postdocs in some departments do do lectures, although whether this is part of their contract or not I don't know - personally I don't even do demonstrating out of the lab anymore for the simple reason it isn't in my contract to do any teaching. I wouldn't mind flexing the contract if I hadn't had massive issues with the University over back pay a couple of years ago that got quite messy...haven't trusted the university's ability to do anything right since. consequently, no - I don't think postdocs will get a pay rise, even if they do teach, because teaching isn't usually part of postdocs' contracts. Even if we do, I would fully expect the pay increases to be funded by shortening research contracts, but this is only a medium-term problem anyway - hopefully by the next time most of us are applying for grants the pay dispute will have been resolved and any grants will be increased to cover the pay rises.

 

Given in the current round of grants (in my field specifically) quite a few postdocs are losing their jobs due to lack of money from the goverment to the research council to fund them I worry about where the money is going to come from to fund pay increases unless further jobs are cut. I'd rather keep my current salary and have a larger more secure job market (as far as you can describe the academic job market as secure anyway).

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