SOAS student union supports UCU strike

November 28, 2011 § Leave a comment

Letter from SOAS Student Union to the student body:
 
“Dear students,
 
You’re probably aware that next Wednesday, November 30th, is going to be a very big day around the country, with what will probably be the biggest public sector strike since 1926.
More than two million workers, including teachers, headteachers and civil servants around the UK will be striking next Wednesday. The strike aims to defend public sector workers from the cutting of their pensions – which, if it goes through, amounts to a major cut in their pay and will mean poorer, more vulnerable pensioners in a few decades time. The decision to strike has been taken after months of negotiations with the government.
You may not be aware – because it has only recently been confirmed – that the Universities and Colleges Union will also be on strike on that day.
This means that on Wednesday 30th November SOAS will not be running as usual as many lecturers and teaching assistants will be on strike.
Most classes will be cancelled or rescheduled (check with your lecturer – it will probably also start an interesting class debate), and the library is likely to be reference only.

The SU shop and bar will be completely closed all day long, and me and the other sabbatical officers will not be in our office – although we will be on the picket lines!

The university will be picketed (for those who don’t know, a picket line is a demonstration by striking workers that they are on strike and that they would like others to support them by not entering the building). As the Students’ Union, we are officially asking students not to cross the picket lines and not go inside any of the SOAS buildings on the day – the most important way to show solidarity with our lecturers is not to break their strike.

Whether or not you agree with the decision by UCU to strike, our lecturers have always been supportive of our actions and welfare, and we should offer them the same courtesy.
Moreover, the public sector strike takes place at a crucial time of government cuts to public services and university funding, that is putting the future of public universities like SOAS in jeopardy and threatening dramatically the universal accessibility of Higher Education. The lecturers’ strike action is therefore in the students’ interest as well, as it is an act of protest against the government’s destructive Higher Education policies and recessive austerity measures. For this reason, as students, we should join in the strike and support it actively.
 
If you are concerned about being penalised for taking the day off university and not attending classes, don’t worry. We have been in negotiations with the School to ensure that students do not suffer any negative consequences for their decision of supporting their striking lecturers.
For this reason, we are glad to announce that:

All coursework due on this day has been given an automatic one-day extension: this means that you will not lose marks if you hand in your essays the day after.
Library fines will be suspended for books not handed in on November 30th.
Students who decide not to cross the picket lines and therefore not attend classes on November 30th will not be marked as absent; this means that
if your lecture is still going ahead as scheduled and you decide not to attend to avoid breaking the strike, this absence will not affect your attendance record and you will not be penalized in any way.
If for any reason you would wish to cross the picket line, you are free to do so and we will strive to ensure that no one feels intimidated or pressured.
However, we do encourage you to not cross the picket line, come outside SOAS and get involved with what could be a massively important day for both the university and the entire country.

You can come and show your solidarity with staff on the picket lines from 9am – they would be delighted to see a great show of student support, and there will be teach-outs, debates and music going on (the samba band will be there!), as well as hot food and drinks. Having student support on the picket lines is very important for the lecturers on strike, so if you can please come from 9am. If you wanna bake a cake or bring some food for the strikers, that would also be greatly appreciated!

At 11.30 we’ll be gathering at SOAS to join the education feeder march to the national demonstration against pension cuts and against wider cuts to education and other public services. This will be a huge demonstration – probably 40.000 workers from all across London will be marching together – and it would be great to have a big SOAS contingent, so make sure you come down at 11.30 at least!

There’s also lots going on in the build-up to the strike – there will be a tent protest outside the university from Monday, and on the night of the 29th an event in the KLT to discuss the strike, with lecturers and workers speaking about the aims of the 30th and what might come next. With rallies planned around London and six universities already in occupation, there are likely to be lots of other exciting events going on across the country. And if you want to help flyer or make banners for the demonstration, or otherwise get involved, get in touch with SOAS anti-cuts group (soasanticuts@gmail.com).

So, just to recap: please choose to support your lecturers by not crossing the picket lines on Wednesday; come to show solidarity with them on the picket lines from 9am; and join the feeder march to the big trade union demonstration from 11.30am, meeting at SOAS steps.
Myself, Ali and Chuck and the rest of the Students’ Union exec will be around on the day if you have any questions about the strike action, otherwise if you have any doubts or problems please feel free to get in touch now via email.

Thanks for reading all this, and see you all on Wednesday!

Much love,

Arianna (Co-President Welfare and Education, SOAS SU)”

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