It is now 24th March, and I’m supposed to be on strike. But I’m not. This is completely new for me – to be part of a union that has called a strike, and not to follow. Why?
I’m on the other side of the world – a national day of action doesn’t mean a lot when I’d be the only person here doing anything. There are things on here, people to meet, etc. Do I cancel these? This would have precisely zero impact on Durham and UK higher education.
I’m on research leave. So I’d not read the book, referee the article, edit the journal, answer the email, write the paragraph today… but I would tomorrow. So instead of not doing some work, I’d simply do it later. Academics regularly defer things when they strike, but on research leave it seems particularly self-defeating.
We have a singularly inept trade union. At Durham, a mix-up in terms of a local dispute and a national one for Tuesday’s strike meant that we had conflicting advice from the branch and the national union as to whether the strike was legal. In addition, Tuesday was an open day at Durham and apparently people felt they could not strike when it might have negative effects. That’s part of the point, of course. So I’ve been getting conflicting emails on that day, and it’s tainted my view of the whole action. I also have an abiding memory of the ineptness of the union the last time we took industrial action.
If I was in the UK I would have been on strike. I’d probably have expressed strong reservations about the union’s handling of the whole thing in meetings. Last time round I wrote to the national union secretary but never received a reply. I care about the causes including pension rights, job security and what is being done to the sector by this awful government. But doing anything today seemed to be absolutely pointless. Perhaps I am wrong.