Exeter students are currently occupying the Queen’s Building on Exeter’s Streatham campus in support of the lecturer strike set for today, Tuesday 3rd December.
The strike is part of the two day union plan against reduced pay with university staff having faced year-on-year cuts and reduced pensions. The action also comes after the three University of Exeter recognised unions, UCU, Union and Unite, rejected a 1% pay increase offered by the University.
The University will be placing the wages of striking staff into the Student Hardship Fund.
The occupation began at 5 p.m. Monday 2nd December and is situated within the Senior Common Room of Queen’s, the academic building housing English and Foreign Languages. At the time of writing, the occupation numbers 20 students. Exeter University has not currently taken any direct action in relation to the occupation.
Though the occupation is not linked with any societies, it has received public support from Labour Students and Socialist Students. Many other student sit-ins are also in action across the United Kingdom at universities including Birmingham, Sheffield, Goldsmiths, Edinburgh, Ulster and Sussex.
A student involved in the sit-in told Exeposé: “The occupation is in support of tomorrow’s strike for fair pay, and in solidarity with student occupations happening around the country which are over various issues such as fair pay, the strike, marketisation of higher and further education, privatisation of the student loan company, and the right to protest.”
In a statement released on their website, the Exeter Occupiers explained the reasoning behind their occupation and addressed wider economic issues regarding university staff and students.
They wrote: “It is clear that the interests of university leadership are utterly opposed to the interests of those who make up our universities – that is, us, the staff and students.
This is just one in a series of actions on the behalf of students nationwide to fight the increasing corporatisation of universities. Universities should be places for free thought and balanced discourse, accessible to all, and not subject to the whims of government or big business.”
Some lectures and seminars scheduled for tomorrow have been cancelled as result of the strike action and picket lines are expected at the Stocker Road entrance to campus.
In a statement given to Exeposé, a University spokesperson said: “Universities around the UK, including Exeter, are affected by strike action on 3 December. The University will be open for business, but around 22 per cent of our staff are members of trade unions so we expect there may be some disruption to normal services.
The University places great value on providing a high quality student experience and will seek to ensure that the minimum disruption is caused to students and others by this industrial action. We will be working with the campus trade unions to ensure that any picketing does not disrupt individuals coming to our campuses.
In common with other employers during strikes, the University will withhold pay from any member of staff who participates in strike action. As we have done during previous disputes, the University will donate the monies withheld to student hardship funds agreed with the Students’ Guild.
The dispute is primarily over pay. Exeter is part of a national pay bargaining agreement which made an offer of a one per cent rise to staff this year. This was rejected by UCU, Unison and Unite, the three trade unions recognised by the University of Exeter. As a result they called a further one day strike on 3 December. We very much hope that the on-going national negotiations will result in a quick resolution to the dispute. According to University figures about 6% of staff were involved in the previous one day strike on the 31 October.”
Olivia Luder, Online Editorbookmark me