In the first episode of the new Beyond Education Podcast, Kirsty Morrin and Dave Ridley talk to recently graduated student Esme Flinders about the strike actions taking place at the University of Liverpool, and her role in promoting and sustaining student-worker solidarity.
University and College Union (UCU) members have been on a series of strike actions and boycotts over the past few months, including 24 days of all out strike action (3 weeks and a further 10 days at the time of recording), with a marking boycott (action short of strike) in between.
The strikers are taking action over proposals to cut 47 academic staff jobs in the health sciences through so-called compulsory redundancies. There are many issues with the way these proposals have come about, and played out so far, not least the fact that the posts are ‘redundant’ but are to be replaced, and the metric criteria through which staff have been selected has been called out as unethical, unfair, and erroneous throughout (see Further Reading).
The action has so far saved 45 of the 47 jobs which is a huge win, but the fight goes on for 2 colleagues remaining at risk, and the wider fight over what it means to have a permanent contract in HE in the future.
The poem you hear at the start of the episode – ‘Tell all the truth but tell it slant’ by Emily Dickinson – was one of a series of poems sent in a weekly updates by Liverpool University Vice Chancellor, Janet Beer, something she has done throughout the last year.
What was particularly pointed about this poem was sent in an email that claimed the UCU were spreading untruths and misconceptions to students about their action and managements roles in this. In Part 2 of this interview, which will be published soon, we’ll hear a what we might call ‘rebuttal poem’ from striking UCU members.