The teacher grading strike that began in April has finally come to a close. At least for now.
UvA recently announced a new working policy that would apply to all of its departments in a similar manner, replacing the hole that saw different working conditions per department. The policy would address many of the teachers’ objections about their working conditions by providing paid development time and offering new lecturers four-year contracts, with the possibility of becoming permanent staff members. “These are steps in the right direction and there’s some real potential for these to go well and end the kind of precarity that we’ve been talking about,” says Liam Rhatigan, a junior lecturer in the political science department. Liam is part of CasualUvA, a group of UvA junior lecturers who coordinated the grading strike. “We were satisfied that the university was taking the right first steps. This is why the language is that we have ‘suspended’ the strike” he says.
The teacher’s decision to label the strike as “suspended” is important as it conveys that the new policy may still be applied in ways that do not address teachers’ demands. “It still remains to be seen for us whether this policy will actually deal with the core problems which brought us to that moment” Liam clarifies, “but we’re optimistic”. The teachers’ optimism for the new policy comes after the first attempt at a rectifying policy saw a vote to continue striking, but the second attempt proved more satisfying for the teachers. “Even if the worst-case scenarios pan out, I think our position and what’s on the table for us is definitely better than it was a few months ago” Liam shares.
So where does this leave us? Well for the moment, students can expect their work to be graded and teachers expect improved working conditions, but the new policy will only be unmasked next academic year, leaving the possibility that teachers may continue to be dissatisfied with some working conditions. “If we’re still experiencing the same precarity, if it turns out that this policy doesn’t actually address these issues then I could see a possibility for there being potential future action. But at this point that’s just my viewpoint on things, this isn’t an official CasualUvA policy” Liam concludes.
Future strikes don’t appear likely as the university recently made public statements about being committed to a new vision for teachers and acknowledged that previous working conditions were inadequate, so for now at least both parties seem satisfied. But whether UvA has produced an acceptable long-term solution or a short-term fix remains to be seen.