As we stand together during the prelude to industrial action, I feel the need to reflect and to take heed of how far we have come and what we are aiming for in the coming weeks. As a professional member of staff in UCU, I want to highlight how our experience as a group may differ somewhat from members in lecturing roles and how that relates to our involvement in the proposed industrial action.

During the 8 days of action I had something of an epiphany when I took stock of what we could achieve together when the class-based structures of the university were stripped away. I became more than my individual rank. I was a valuable member of a team working on a collective goal. It filled my heart with hope.

When the strike ended, there was an abrupt return to reality. But a new kind of reality, a reality with greater objectivity. In this reality, participating in Action Short of a Strike (ASOS) made me realise that as someone in a service role my work-time is consumed by competing priorities that often change based on managerial whims. My productivity is hampered by reactive rather than proactive work as a result. I also realised that for years I had been working extra hours because of the demands on my time at certain points in the academic year. Most of all I realised that I felt alone, because as professional and academic-related staff we may be the lone member taking action in a department or team. Participating in ASOS has been a challenging experience for this reason, but both worthy and eye-opening. As lonely as I felt at times, I am writing this post to tell you that you are not alone.

I won’t lie, the announcement of 14 days of industrial action was a shock to my individual system, but then I reflected on why I felt this way. I felt this way because we are encouraged to think ‘individually’, because when we come together we are harder to control. I felt this way when I considered the impact on my income, but with the strike fund this is manageable*. I felt this way when I thought about the impact on my work and consequently on students, but the action is the absolute last resort and collectively we have resolved to continue this fight. I felt this way because we are encouraged to think of ‘us’ and ‘them’, when in reality my role has much in common with lecturing staff.

Ultimately, having weighed it all up it came to this question, why did I choose to join UCU? I chose to join UCU because I teach. Because I care deeply about the cause of education. Because I chose education as my career above the alternatives. Because I will not cross a picket line crewed by my most valued colleagues and service users. I thought about what the union has provided to me: training, camaraderie, support and then what the union asks in return. It is a fair trade.

So as we stand collectively together during this prelude to industrial action, I will continue to challenge my own tendency to think ‘individually’. By participating in the action we actively support a better future and we also support each other.

*only down about £25 per day at my income level.

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