Middlesex University strikers defending their jobs and pensions!

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Unison and UCU members stand together in defence of jobs and education
Unison and UCU members stand together in defence of jobs and education

STRIKE action took place on Tuesday across the three campuses of Middlesex University with lecturers and staff picketing every entrance against the threat of 300 sackings.

The joint UCU and Unison strike action was supported by the Middlesex University Students Union (MUSU) who brought students and their banner to the picket line at the Hendon site.

The lively picket caught the attention of passing motorists who honked their horns in support.

On the picket line at the Middlesex University campus at Snakes Lane Arthur Husk, UCU’s branch chair, told News Line: ‘We’ve got a great presence and good atmosphere, pickets are doing their best to persuade everyone of the issues.

‘We hope management will return to the table and achieve a negotiated settlement.

‘The Middlesex position is that this is a sector-wide problem nonetheless it is important for us to protect the staff and students here under this attack.’

At the Archway campus picket line Sara Wright, the Unison branch chair, told News Line: ‘This is a very good turn out, the Middlesex University’s Student Union are supporting us and we have had messages of support from our colleagues across London in Higher Education and Local Government sectors.

‘John McDonnell MP sent a message of support and Jeremy Corbyn our local MP visited the picket line.

‘This government would be quite happy to get rid of the public sector.

‘At Middlesex they are making 300 redundancies.

‘They are hoping to make these cuts through voluntary redundancies but actually people are being forced to jump before they are pushed.

‘We are hoping to be out on November 30 along with all public sector workers. We’ve got to fight the government’s cuts and tuition fees.

‘In fact we should abolish fees. They’ve changed the regulations for student visas making it harder for foreign students which has an impact on universities like Middlesex.

‘We feel the University management could have done more to avoid cutting staff. Personally I would like to see a General Strike.’

Unison joint chair of Middlesex University, Karen Ridout, told News Line about an important development at the Archway campus picket, she said: ‘A Royal Mail van was successfully turned away by UCU joint chair Kate Brown.

‘It was going to deliver mail to the University and when the strike was explained, turned away.

‘CWU support our fight!

‘Middlesex University is a great university, but the bottom line is that students’ education will suffer as a result of the cuts.

‘I absolutely believe that this government needs to be kicked out.’

President of the students union Iyer Manoj Kumar, who brought a delegation of students to join the struggle said: ‘We have brought our students union banner here today.

‘On October the tenth 2010, before the November demonstration against the cuts in higher education and against university fees the students union had come up with a motion that we would be supporting any strike action, demonstration or protest or occupation to stop any cuts in the public sector that affects our members.’

The motion that was passed through the students union called ‘Oppose cuts throughout the public sector’ states: ‘MUSU resolves: To mandate the students Union Executive to oppose all cuts. And to work with and support the campus Trade Unions in their struggle against these cuts.’

Kumar continued: ‘Occupation will always be the last resort if our demands are not met.

‘I believe in dialogue but if our demands are not met then we will have to occupy to get our voices heard.

‘Students are going to be treated like “customers” and the university will no longer be a “temple of knowledge” but become a corporate body.

‘I am totally against the privatisation of education.

‘Students from a working class background like me can not afford to get an education.

‘If you take out the loan, on graduation you have a heavy burden which is a traumatic experience for the whole family.

‘How are you going to repay? You will become extremely worried about your future.

‘Nick Clegg went back on his promises. The liberals signed a pledge that they would not do anything that would be detrimental to education.’

He alleged: ‘They went back on their pledge for power.’

Simon Renton on the National Executive of the UCU and Vice President of the UCU said: ‘We are really pleased with the way things are done here.

‘That the trade unions are acting together and that they have the support of the students union and that strike action is part of a clear strategy to force the recalcitrant management to behave more seriously.

‘We are for no compulsory redundancies because it is part of the package of cuts.

‘If Middlesex management do not come to their senses then further action is planned.

‘Attacks by our employers on our pensions is a particularly unreasonable behaviour because what our employers are seeking to do is to cut the pay for work that has already been carried out in some cases over years and years and that is close to theft.

‘When we act together, students, youth organisation, and trade unionists represent a force that any government, no matter how unpleasant, must take seriously.

‘UCU was one of the first unions to ballot for industrial action on the 30th November and we have overwhelming support in defence of our conditions of employment and of the education system as a whole.

‘I was at the TUC congress when the YS was lobbying for jobs for youth.

‘We welcome the support of the Young Socialists and look forward to working together.

‘Signs of support from the wider community not just from within the education system is particularly welcome.’

The students union has come under attack from management for joining the lecturers’ struggle, NUS student activist Manuel Padovan alleged.

‘We need to make a stand, we have freedom of speech and we have a right to demonstrate and strike.’

Student union Vice President of Academic Affairs Ms Farhunda said: ‘We have joined the picket line because of the cuts across the university and we are not in favour of redundancies which damage students’ education.

‘What value for money are students getting when the more we pay the less we get!

‘We should defend every job! People fear that if they do not take voluntary redundancy then they will have to accept compulsory redundancy and that is why we have to defend every job.’

Her fellow students union officer, Vice President Activities and Communications Michelle D’souza said: ‘This is a good strike!

‘Students were affected by the induction week this week so some did go in.

Even so, we have spoken to those students and they support the struggle of the lecturers and do not want them to be sacked.

‘Lecturers have the most important job. There are a lot of students who come from many countries all over the world and the lecturers make things so clear for them.

‘We used to have 15 or 20 students in a seminar, now it is more like 30 or 35 to a seminar so how can attention be given?

‘This is a huge loss for students.’

During the day the strike began to have a real impact on management who were forced to come out on to the street to do the job of staff ushering students in for their induction.

UCU branch secretary at Middlesex University John Hammond said: ‘I have not seen any members of academic staff go in.

‘The strike is solid and the people are angry about the university management’s behaviour because of its bullying attitude.

‘There was a report for Research Fortnight about the effect that government policies and the financial situation was having on education in the UK and it took Middlesex University as a case study.

‘In its opening paragraphs it said that Middlesex is going to change the maximum fee and even with student subsidies for poorer students included the average fee was still £8,000.

‘The report’s biggest concern was the costs to students.

‘The university management say that the financial crisis at Middlesex comes from two sources.

‘They say that there is a problem of Higher Education funding and a problem of the border agency restrictions on overseas students.

‘However, if you read this report you will learn that the university is mortgaged to the hilt to finance its foreign adventures.

‘The university management has opened institutions abroad in Dubia and Mauritious for example, they have their fingers in every pie, looking for all manner of adventures.

‘This gives the lie to some of the claims by management, certainly about that this heavy indebtedness was kept secret from the unions.

‘If they are going to get rid of staff, what is going to happen to the students?’

VP Welfare and International students union sabbatical Preeti Sogani said: ‘International students have been paying the £9,000 fee for a long time.

‘These redundancies are really effecting them.

‘Lecturers are the most important part of students life.

‘With less lecturers, this means less support and less feed back.

‘So we must make this strike successful!’