I woke up this morning, at 4am to be precise, with a jumble of thoughts going through my mind. In my bleary eyed, docile state I wondered whether the cats’ body clocks had gone awry, and they thought it was breakfast time (I don’t need an alarm clock) or whether it was an age thing and I shouldn’t have had that cup of tea at 10 o’clock last night (I hate getting old), but no, it’s strike day again and it weighs heavy on my mind.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not wavering, far from it, but I do reflect on the impact, and it bothers me, and I know it bothers my colleagues. It bothers me that the students are caught up in this and I have been at pains to explain to my classes why we are on strike and to try to mitigate some of the impact, but I know I cannot mitigate all of it. The business we are in is education and that education relies on lecturers, surprisingly enough, take away the lecturers and there is no education. I know that every day I’m on strike, there are topics that I’m not covering in class and there is no one else to cover them; no I’m not irreplaceable but I do add real value.
I struggle with the concept of ASOS and once again I am not alone. ASOS has meant that things are just not getting done, even though I’m still working at least a couple of hours a week over my contracted hours. Not strictly ASOS I know, but it’s difficult to stick to the rules when doing so would cause everything to grind to a halt. I still have to do my teaching and marking and second marking and look at draft dissertations and have meetings with dissertation students and spend what seems like an interminable amount of time on emails (which by diktat have to be answered in two days). I still have to prepare for my classes as I’m not a performing seal and do have to think about it before hand. I still have to communicate with my colleagues and with the less experienced provide a guiding hand and I’m sure there are a myriad of other things I do that I haven’t mentioned.
But I have not wavered and nor will I. When I hear management talking about the cost of fuel going up, the state of the sector’s finances, the value of student fees compared to a few years ago, woe is me, when I see how management can treat their workers (P&O Ferries comes to mind alongside some of the other horror stories affecting both higher and further education), it simply reminds me of two things; they are out of touch and they don’t care. Insulated from the real world, their response to our very real concerns about workloads and our ever-diminishing pay, is that they’ll look into it. Looking into it isn’t doing anything about it. Looking into it doesn’t fix my workload and, in the meantime, I’m still dealing with the aftermath of new IT systems that don’t work properly and cause significant extra work (maybe someone should have looked into that before foisting it upon the unsuspecting student and lecturer body). I knew there was something I’d left out in the above paragraph.
One thing ASOS has taught me, there is too much to do nearly every week. I look at the things that are not done and I lament when I see that it has impacted on students. My PDR means nothing if I haven’t the time to achieve the objectives, the mandatory training (so important that’s it’s done by eLearning; that’s another story), sits waiting to be done when I have time; and I’m constantly playing catchup. I work in a system that thrives on making me feel guilty for not achieving. My reality though is so far removed from the workload plan that the plan has no meaning, other than to serve as a tool to beat me up with.
I am angry. I am angry that I have been forced to go on strike. I am angry about the way that I have been treated in the past and I am angry that there has been little progress made. I am angry about the impact that all of this is having on my students. ASOS though has taught me one thing, there is such a thing as work/life balance and when the strikes are over, I am never going back to working the way I did before. I have a contract and I’m sticking to it. None of this is my fault, I didn’t invent this system and I’m not the one out of touch with reality. I’m not wavering in my resolve, regardless of any future ballot, the principles of ASOS are here to stay.