How will the campaign impact King's students?
This dispute will live or die on the basis of student-staff solidarity. University management has already contacted students to assure them strike days will see ‘business as usual’, while threatening strikes with docked pay. By painting the strike as an encumbrance, rather than a critical fightback against marketisation and attacks on workers, they seek to divide students and teachers during the strike period.
Students must come out in support of lecturers, who are risking their pay in the UCU’s biggest ever action, and encourage other students (and their lecturers) to stand in solidarity in defence of education.
University staff have faced a sustained attack on their living and working conditions over the past few years. The redundancies, course closures, and cuts to pay have had a detrimental impact on staff and students at universities around the country. These attacks come at the same time as a drive towards the marketisation of education through higher tuition fees and pay increases for senior management at many universities.
Our principal, Ed Byrne, earns over £400,000 a year - an absurd figure. The result has been a drive to reduce costs and increase revenue, thereby increasingly treating universities as businesses instead of centres of learning. The latest attack on university staff is a proposed change to pension schemes which, if implemented, will leave a typical lecturer almost £10,000 a year worse off in retirement than under the current set up.
In response, the University and College Union (UCU) balloted its members for strike action. UCU members overwhelmingly backed industrial action. Overall, 88% of members who voted backed strike action and 93% backed action short of a strike. The turnout was 58%. At King's, 92% of lecturers balloted have backed a strike.
There is a long history of student unions and the UCU cooperating in defence of education. NUS President Shakira Martin has already released a joint statement of support with the UCU. The pensions of university staff are being attacked as part of a wider attack on education that is being carried out in the interests of private profit. The struggle by staff for decent pensions therefore concerns students as much as the fight for free and decent education.
This situation is the result of a capitalist economic system run for profit instead of need, and whose operation inevitably results in crises, inefficiency and the growth of inequality. Students should publicly support all university staff taking strike action in the four rounds of action that have been announced between February and March 2018.
This campaign will publicly encourage all students not to cross picket lines and send delegates to the local UCU branch and to picket lines to offer practical support for all action to fight against attacks on education and other public services. The best way to win this strike is for students and staff to make its initial period as impactful as possible - with maximum solidarity for a maximum disruption. This will protect the wellbeing of teachers, and demonstrate to the Universities’ UK (the bosses’ organisation) that we will not stand for universities being turned into businesses, students into consumers, and staff into exploitable commodities.
The campaign will therefore take the following actions:
1) Informing students of strike days and advising them to join lecturers on the picket line.
2) Advising students to email the Principal, and insist they come out in support of the UCU’s demands, thus putting pressure on UUK (the bosses’ organisation that is proposing the counter-reform)
3) Asking students to send messages of support to lecturers and seminar tutors – to boost morale.
4) To carry on support until the UCU has won its demands.
Which students at King's will the campaign impact?
At this time, there is a great deal of understandable concern from students - particularly international students who have already handed over eye-watering fees to study in the UK. It is imperative that this campaign explains the just cause of this strike, and explain that if the UCU is defeated, it will be one more step towards the total marketisation of education.
If this doesn’t happen, management will be able to pit students against lecturers. Already, bursaries have been cut, teaching has been casualised, and fees have gone through the roof. We have to draw the line here and stand up for our sector - to reverse this counter-reform as a step towards fulfilling the NUS’s stated goal of free education for all.
Who should support the campaign?
All members of KCLSU