I want to publicly express my sincere and heartfelt solidarity with my colleagues in 60 higher education institutions across the UK who are out on strike both this week (we’re at the end of day 4 of 8) and next week. Want to know more? Here’s the link to the FAQs on the UCU website.

The University and College Union members at these institutions are currently withholding their labour as part of an orchestrated industrial action in response to two sets of related issues: the ongoing dispute regarding the USS pension scheme, and eroding working conditions and pay. Both disputes affect higher education today and tomorrow and both are unavoidable and essential courses of action by UCU in the face of intransigence from our employers. The subject of archaeology, and cognate subjects such as history and anthropology, need to grow and develop at Universities rather than staff being stifled by overwork, casualisation and ever-reducing pay and pension schemes. The issue of casualisation is a particular blight that makes it increasingly impossible for secure, steady employment in the sector, but instead colleagues face a constant roundabout of reapplications and dislocations.

The institutions affected contain many good friends and colleagues. The pay-cut imposed upon them for taking strike action, and the intimidation taking place at some institutions, is having many effects. The lead up to Christmas or soon after will be crippling financially for them and their families, and it is also impacting on the physical and mental health of many involved. It angers me that the Universities’ VCs and their offices have allowed this strike to go ahead despite repeated attempts at a resolution.

How can you help?

  • You can follow the action via the UCU’s website or the hashtag #ucustrikesback.
  • If you are a lecturer/researcher/academic-contracted employee: join UCU!
  • If you are a student: support the campaign and speak out when you hear people complaining about it. Demand recompense for your loss of lectures and contact with tutors, but don’t blame them, blame the employers;
  • If you are a member of the public: write to your MPs and show your support at every opportunity;
  • Whoever you are: be vocal in your support, but also, think carefully before you vote on 12 December to ensure that we can reverse the downward trajectory of higher education in this country.

I should say, I’m a UCU member but not at one of the institutions that is striking. This is frustrating for me, but I’m acutely aware as a result that it’s very important that non-striking staff and students recognise and respect that lecturers are taking this action in all our best interests and on behalf of our collective futures, to ensure the marketisation and casualisation of higher education is curbed and countered, pay packets are fair, and pensions are safe.

I’m very lucky in having a ‘permanent’ contract and I’m now counted as a ‘senior’ academic, but my income has been dropping year-on-year in real terms as other costs rise, and austerity has hardly escaped my household. Hence, I’m keenly aware on the issues at stake from a personal perspective.

That’s why I’m blogging now, and why, if you love archaeology and love the study of humanity’s relationship with its own mortality past, present and future – in other words if you like Archaeodeath – you will join me in showing support.

Now, I’ll own up, I haven’t fully observed a ‘digital picket’. I have posted a few times about my research activities and endeavours, and about public talks and Uni events by me and others this week, but I’ve now deleted some of these out of respect. I’ve also posted a here few times out of necessity to counter lies and smears posted by American idiots and British academic scabs breaking their own institutions’ digital pickets. Yet while I’m still teaching and researching to honour my contract and keep my commitments to others outside the university sector, I’m also trying hard to keep as up-to-date as I can with #ucustrikesback developments. Therefore, I send my goodwill and support to all those putting their all into the strike action.

The #vikingsofsolidarity salute you!