Thursday, 18 March 2010

UCU strike against university cuts!

[Words Peter Knight, pictures Dave Hill]

Today lecturers and staff at the University of Sussex gave management their thoughts on the proposed plans to cut over 115 staff along with other vital services - by taking strike action and walking out.

The strike ballot recorded the largest turnout in UCU history - with 80.9% of members voting. Over three-quarters of staff (76%) supported strike action and over four-fifths (82%) agreed to action short of a strike.

Picket lines were lively this morning as hundreds of students and workers offered each other support against the university managment.

One lecturer on strike said: "People see the cuts as a blow to the heart of the university. Education should be at the heart of the university's mission, but it's being downgraded. The support from students has been extremely heartening, to see how willing they are to support the campaign against cuts."

Socialist Students and others from the Stop The Cuts campaign have been in occupation in one of the university's largest lecture halls for eight days in support of the university workers and in opposition to the cuts. This morning they came out and joined the workers on strike.

At a senate meeting last night, over 800 passed a vote of no confidence in vice-chancellor Michael Farthing and the administration. University management have failed to consult with staff properly, bullied and victimised staff and students with suspensions and the threat of redundancies and, in scenes never before witnessed on the university campus, called in riot police to violently attack a peaceful demonstration opposing the cuts.

Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition candidate for Brighton Kemptown Dave Hill joined the picket line in solidarity with both workers and students. He said: "Sussex university students are leading the way nationally in acting to stop the cuts. Now Sussex university UCU, together with Leeds University UCU, have both voted to take strike action to stop the cuts. UCU estimates that over the next three years 15,000 jobs at universities and colleges across the country are under threat - not just lecturers, but porters, secretaries, admin staff, cleaners - all sorts of workers - faced with job cuts unless there is solidarity in opposing them! Students and workers, unite and fight!"

Today's strike is part of a national day of action called by Socialist Students against all university and education cuts. As the senate meeting was taking place last night, news came through of a student occupation at Aberdeen University. Workers and students have been uniting up and down the country to oppose these attacks on education.

Today's action coincides with the annoucement of funding cuts to universities across the country, including Sussex, which will result in a blow for standards, massive job cuts and fewer places for students who are already suffering with debt, a job-less future, low pay and fees in excess of £3,000 a year. So much for "education, education, education."

We say: "Defend education! Victory to the strikers! Ballot the other campus union members threatened with cuts! Keep open the university creche! An end to macho-management! No redundancies! Stop the cuts! Vote Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition! Campaign for a New Workers' Party!"

For the latest information and background on the fight back against education cuts click here...