Short Reflections on the Strike: Crossing Lines

Our strike last week ended Wednesday 28 February. The plan was to return to work, be as productive as we could be over two 7-hour contracted work days Thursday and Friday, then return to the picket line today.

Snow overnight on Wednesday threatened things: we’d received messages from all three kids’ schools saying classes were cancelled, but at 8 am, my university was still open. A proper Canadian, I suited up in well-treaded boots and stomped in. Arrived in time to turn on my computer, make a cup of tea, and have a brief chat with the only other colleague on the floor (another Canadian – no joke). Then back to my computer to see the urgent e-mail that the university buildings would close at 10 and we were all to leave and go home. Buildings would remain closed Friday, too.

Ah. *That* productivity.

Michael Munnik doesn't think it's really very snowy in Cardiff on Thursday 1 March

All that snow on the way back from work…

It meant some complications for me. I knew that the library had recalled I book I had out to serve another student’s request. They needed it by Monday. In ordinary conditions, I would have had plenty of time to return it. Only, by the time I left my office, the main doors were locked, so I couldn’t get the book in the return box. To return it today would mean crossing the picket line, however briefly and uncontroversially. To retain it would start to cost me overdue fines.

Meanwhile, one task I apparently had been able to accomplish during the 20 minutes I spent at my desk was to unpack my lunch and stick it in the desk by my computer. I only registered this once back home and discussing lunch with my all-snow-dayed family. “I made a really great-looking sandwich; let me just get it from my…” Hmm. Buildings closed Thursday, Friday. Also Saturday, Sunday for the weekend. Then it’s Monday, and I’m on strike til… Thursday. Most unpleasant.

So amidst my solidarity with union colleagues who are out on strike, I’m also grateful for solidarity with admin staff who fetched my inedible lunch and disposed of it, who visited me on the line to return a book before it started costing me. We’re all in this together!


Staff at the Question Time session with Colin Riordan and Rob Williams

Staff at the Question Time session with Colin Riordan and Rob Williams. Photo c/o @CardiffUCU

Speaking of crossing lines, just a brief note that the big buzz on Cardiff campus today was an hour’s meeting with our vice chancellor, Colin Riordan, and the chief financial officer, Rob Williams. You can check live tweets from me and others, but I’ll say it was brave of them to come down and good of everyone to keep tempers in check. We don’t need heated rhetoric to argue our case – we have expertise right on our picket line about the faulty calculations that the regulator and the universities organisation is insisting on for valuating our pension. (If you want an excellent and understandable analogy, check out this short video from colleagues:)


What was most compelling was the invitation for him to work with us, not against us, and advocate for our best interests at the top table. The university is not a collection of buildings: it is staff and students who come to learn and teach. It is the people.

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