Image copyright Getty Images Image caption One of the reasons more students are unionising is to maintain a safe learning environment
How would you feel if your students union was planning a strike over your pay and conditions?
People in Britain may find the answer to that question, thanks to the rise of Generation Z, who are strongly opposed to bosses’ proposed cuts.
Millennials, as their peers are known, form one fifth of the British population.
But this year, an increase in the number of schools that reported strikes was met with an unusual response: the huge majority of those schools did not take part.
Often only the most junior staff, most usually junior or teacher staff in schools, are the first ones to hear the news that schools are going on strike.
The follow-up can then be a last-minute scramble to figure out the structure of school life, or a daunting task of covering for staff who are expected to stay away.
In a bid to ensure the safety of their staff, many parents opted not to turn up at the school gates.
Image copyright Getty Images Image caption Black students can be targeted for their skin colour and race, some believe
It’s common for the main schools to do most of the cover work, but typically they can make up up for absentee staff in secondary schools.
But this year, nearly all secondary schools in England reported a rise in the number of members of staff taking strike action.
In the words of one junior school teaching assistant, “The “we’re leaving”, “we’re not, “we’re walking out”, “we’re returning” was like the news at school, mixed with the “we’re no longer here” comments that were given to staff that might be leaving the school that year.
The expansion of the action is getting people worried.
How union membership varies among different demographic groups
And so many school and higher education students have been protesting, with the young adults sitting out as staff and non-uniform-clad school children joining the picket lines.
Mortensen McKellar-Taylor, 24, from Colchester, Essex, said he joined a walkout on 27 October in protest at “academic staff being pushed out of the profession because they don’t earn what management want”.
Alexet Medley, 22, a politics student from London, said: “With the minimum wage being lower than £9 an hour, it’s a small difference that the union gets it first, but it’s being taken away from them.”
And Ramilla Patel, 21, a medical student from Nottingham, said: “The offer we were given compared to our working conditions just wasn’t enough.
“Most staff do a lot more than just teaching, it’s catering, cleaning, resourcing them, there’s a lot more work for a short pay. We have to raise awareness about it and make sure it doesn’t happen to anyone else.”
Students are unions
Factories unions are in pretty good shape compared to schools.
The finance workers’ union, the TUC, which represents those in financial services and the media sector, was still debating whether to strike earlier this year.
Image copyright Getty Images Image caption Union membership is increasing among students, particularly as more organisations buy up student unions
The transport union Aslef, whose members are not paid a lot more than teachers, had already called a strike in train drivers’ work-to-rule.
And the lowest-paid public-sector workers’ union, the TUSC, is actually controlled by the industry it represents, which means its voice can affect them more than the school teachers.
However, people with schoolchildren and teachers have strongly disagreed with being told to support staff on the picket lines.
School owners have shown solidarity by increasing pay or other aspects of their terms and conditions, which could have given teachers more security.
But students, and increasingly even older people, think that it should not be their responsibility.
Deborah Dunsmore, from Cambridge, who is in her 50s, said: “My generation would join in with the parents and teachers to make the workers feel a little bit better because they’re the people who do the work that affects us.”
And Tracey Di Domenico from Northallerton, North Yorkshire, said: “I sympathise with staff and students who are taking strike action.
“However, I certainly don’t feel as if it should affect me and my children, and certainly not other people within the school community who may not have a power to strike.”