Day 1 of the UCU Strike and it feels like a class war entirely manufactured by the Government

Hundreds of thousands of public sector workers were on strike today. I was one of them. Meanwhile the Bill above is making its way through Parliament – it was voted through earlier this week by all but one of the Conservative MPs, but is currently getting rather more scrutiny and push back in the House of Lords.

It seems likely that there will be legal challenges to some elements of the Bill and that some of them will be successful. The Labour Party have promised to reverse it if they win the next election.

I spent my first strike day ever (yes, I know, I am just a political union member and a mere picket tourist – all of these criticisms are entirely justified) by attending a meeting of the Leicester Actuarial Science Society with the Institute and Faculty of Actuaries (IFoA) President Matt Saker. It was a very well attended event and there were a lot of questions for Matt. These ranged from the IFoA strategy in Africa, to mutual recognition agreements with the Institute of Actuaries in India to the pros and cons of the recent vote to create a Chartered Actuary status for associates and fellows to the future relationship of the profession to AI applications, reflecting the global nature and broad range of interests of the student audience. I felt very much like I was witnessing the next generation of actuaries getting stuck into the issues that would be important to them through their careers, and it was inspiring to see.

Back to the strike. I differ from many of the strikers interviewed in that, in my view, I was not doing anything particularly altruistic by striking. I was standing up for my own pay and conditions. Which, it seems to me, everyone should be able to do in a free society. Years of anti union legislation, uberization and the growth of sectors with weak unions has made us used to having to negotiate for ourselves individually or in small groups against much more powerful employers. The fall in real pay over the last 12 years indicate that this has not really worked for us and perhaps a new era of collective bargaining is now necessary.

Meanwhile the Government thinks that it is a better idea to muzzle unions and repress future strike action than to deal with any of the grievances of the workers they represent. They think this is a better idea than to build anything, invest in anything, or do anything positive at all. You have to ask who such a move, temporary and largely struck down as illegal as it is likely to be, is designed to impress: future party donors perhaps?

The next generation I saw today did not strike me as one which will have much patience for such manufactured class wars and the governments which manufacture them.

It is my hope and, after today, my belief that they will think we have more important things to be doing.

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