I want to use this post to briefly document the fact that both in November and this month I have participated in the national UCU industrial action. Also, since November, I have participated as a UCU member in the action short of a strike (ASOS). This action is being taken to protest for fair pay and working conditions (including fair workloads, the reduction of significant pay-gaps and the blight of sector casualisation).

We are all struggling with the cost of living crisis but there is a far longer backstory to the overall decline in real-terms pay we have been facing as well as the insufferable working conditions we are dealing with. Therefore, I stand in solidarity with UCU members across the UK, but also those standing up for better pay and working conditions more broadly.

Much of my public engagement and academic networks are digital, especially as I have withdrawn from giving regular public talks and attending academic conferences since the pandemic. Still, since January 2022, I have been refraining from posting on my Archaeodeath WordPress blog more than 5 per month (down from far more regular content of 10 or more posts). This reduction to my in-person and digital public engagement is to reflect the lack of recognition and support this activity receives. Having said that, I have successfully continued my 2020 initiatives of vlogging via YouTube and TikTok, with over 900 followers on the former, and over 44,000 followers on the latter. So I feel it is an important balancing act being a public-facing academic whilst also recognising the many difficulties and struggles this digital labour entails.

For those interested in learning more about the UCU strike action and why it matters to us but also for the future of UK Higher Education, do give the UCU a follow on social media. Regarding my contribution, you can check out my past social media posts. Also, I’ve compiled my thoughts in November on a TikTok live which I subsequently posted to my Archaeodeath YouTube account:

Last week, I supported the University of Chester’s digital picket with a TikTok live, again shared on YouTube addressing ‘Why are Uni staff striking?’ together with postgraduate researcher Ellie Chambers.

The situation is changing rapidly as negotiations are ongoing between UCEA and UCU. Personally, I’m hopeful that a resolution can take place. Equally though, the union is seeking to renew its mandate to take industrial action for a further 6 months if the disputes over pay, working conditions and pensions (affecting other institutions, not my own) taking place nationally are not resolved satisfactorily.

I want to recognise the vast amount of time and labour and the significant loss of income that goes into taking strike action and action short of a strike. This has hit me hard and will continue to affect me even in the event the strike action leads to a successful outcome. We must also recognise the stress, depression and dislocation this all entails for those striking alongside the needless disruption it causes our students and collaborative partners.

I also want to thank all the public, students and colleagues who have joined me and articulated their support on the UCU picket lines and shared my participation in the UCU digital picket.

I truly hope positive news is forthcoming from the negotiations, but in the meantime, I’m signing off until next month from WordPress.