Chants from professors and students of the University of Kent in Canterbury, England, could be heard throughout campus as they marched to the Registry building Dec. 2. Posters and picket signs with statements such as “We are at Breaking Point” and “Solidarity with our staff” were raised toward the sky, marking day two of a three-day strike.
Lecturers from about 58 universities in England, Scotland and Northern Ireland were striking pension cuts as well as the overworking and underpaying of teaching professionals. Across the Atlantic Ocean in Indiana, teachers are also conducting strikes called sick-outs — a form of protest where strikers call into work sick — which, according to Chalkbeat, has led to the cancellation of school or moving in-person classes to remote learning.
While these two countries are separated by an ocean, the teachers, lecturers and professors in these countries are undergoing issues of inequitable wages which affect the education of their students.
The U.K. strikes were organized by the University and College Union (UCU) after learning of the planned cuts to the university staff’s national pension scheme, which according to the UCU has already been effectively cut by 240,000 pounds, or about $317,370 USD, since 2011.
Kent University lecturers Tom Parkinson and Steve Cope participated in the strikes to support the lecturers who do not have as much stability as they do.
“We are both on permanent contracts,” Parkison said. “A lot of people at this university don’t have that security. People are in a lot harder conditions.”
The UCU’s Four Fight campaign also challenges issues of decreased pay, inequalities in higher education and unmanageable workloads. In Indiana, the workload and low wages are the main reasons behind protests in the Metropolitan School District of Pike Township.
According to Chalkbeat, since Sept. 27, the doors of Pike schools have closed more than five times due to the understaffing of teachers and bus drivers, which required many Pike students to participate in remote learning.
According to Indiana’s labor laws, striking is illegal for all public employees, which includes teachers. However, teachers have continued to participate in sick-outs and mass call-offs in protest of better pay.
Class cancellations have become such an issue for parents, like Jennifer Rubenstein, that she created a petition calling for Superintendent Flora Reichanadter to resign. The online petition has more than 2,800 signatures.
Some like Zaid Mahmood, chair of the activities network at the University of Kent and a member of the Kent Union parliament, said he believes once teachers get paid what they are worth, it will inevitably better the education and learning capabilities of the students.
“Our teaching staff deserves better from the uni because if they are overworked and underpaid, students won’t get the education that they deserve and pay for,” Mahmood said in a statement made to the InQuire newspaper.