When I started work as a temporary lecturer in 2010 Marina and the Diamonds was in the charts with her song ‘I am not a Robot’. I played it a lot, especially when writing my lectures. It is a song that has often been on loop in my head since then.
Yesterday I went on strike. This is not the first time I’ve joined my trade union in taking this action. Yet unlike my last strike day, this time I actually refrained from working. Last time I pretended that writing (for my own research) did not equate to work. After all, I was on a teaching-only contract at the time. This time, I did not even open my email.
I do respect the reasons why others haven’t gone on strike. But my striking was personal. Firstly, my step-dad’s beliefs have informed my own: I have the right to strike. I remember him striking when I was young and feeling really proud. Secondly, striking for me has been a good way to stop, take a breath and reconnect. The Rev. Samuel Barnett, somebody I research, bemoaned at the turn of the twentieth century that technological innovations meant that ‘Weeks fly too quickly.’ This sentiment can also be used to explain the pressures of term time too. Weeks do fly too quickly and there is rarely time to stake stock or just pause for breath. Although this strike day was about pay, and there are good reasons for that, I think we should be having a serious conversation about academic working conditions as well as pay. Striking for me wasn’t necessary a radical act, but a way to remind people that I’m not a robot.