SOAS cleaners join striking lecturers

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Cleaners on the picket line with striking UCU members at the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS) yesterday

ON THE SECOND day of the three-day strike of 58 universities’ at the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS) in central London yesterday striking Unison cleaners joined striking UCU lecturers on the picket line.

Toanna Beata told the News Line that conditions were’ too much for the postroom workers and cleaners.

‘We worked all though the pandemic lockdown and I feel we are unseen.

‘Our work is escalating with the reduction of staff and SOAS won’t increase our pay.

‘They only paid us 1.5 per cent more and not the three per cent we wanted.

‘We came to work all during the lockdown and put our lives at risk and get nothing at all.

‘They cut the cleaners during the pandemic but there are lots of classrooms, but there wasn’t even toilet paper or a place for a cup of tea,’ she added.

At the Kingston University picket line UCU Branch Secretary Layla Renshaw said: ‘Wednesday went brilliantly there was fantastic solidarity from the students, who really understand the issue of pay gaps and that we’re fighting for equality and not just a pay rise; and it was also great for solidarity between colleagues. I met new colleagues for the first time and there was fantastic unity in our branch.

‘After this three-day strike we are working to contract, or working to rule, while approximately 40 universities which did not make the Tory anti-union law threshold previously will reballot. Then we will find out if they are going to join us in taking the action forward in the New Year.’

Computer games programming lecturer Jarek Francik said: ‘I joined the UCU yesterday and am proud to have done so. The union is fighting on pay and conditions. I am teaching too many hours each week.

‘It is too much. There is no time to research and prepare lessons and the workload is increasing. Plus, pay has been frozen for ten years.’

PhD student Emanuele Lepore said: ‘It is necessary to establish unity between lecturers and students. This is very important.

‘The strike is strong and the issues they are fighting for are crucial for our education just as much as for their working and living conditions. I support them 100%.’

Students joined the UCU lecturers picket line at University College London (UCL) yesterday with a large banner saying ‘Students Support the Strike’.
UCL first year student Annika Melwani said: ‘I’m supporting the lecturers for better working conditions and stability in the job.
‘I’m against the marketisation of education and I care about my lecturers.
‘Other unions should join the struggle. Everybody deserves decent pay and pensions.’

Archaeology student Katya from New York said, ‘We are on the picket line as students to support our lecturers.
‘They work on temporary two or three-year or zero- hours contracts which is very stressful.
‘We should reduce the pay of vice-chancellors who get £450,000 salaries and cut tuition fees.
‘We need to kick out this government.’
UCL UCU president Sean Wallis told News Line: ‘The level of support from the students is very high, it’s clear from the number that came to the picket line yesterday.
‘Our members are firm. Despite delays in the post we crossed the legal threshold in the ballot and we got an 80-90 per cent YES vote to strike.
‘Three days of strike action demonstrates this is serious. We are fighting to defend education, not just ourselves.
‘The question of pay is very much about the youngest and poorest. And insecure contracts affect the younger members.
‘There are two groups affected, usually post-grad students and the second ones are research staff.
‘We will be escalating our action next year.’
At Imperial College yesterday morning UCU branch secretary Roddy Slorach told News Line: ‘The support from students has been fantastic with nearly two thousand students voting their support which is the most decisive mandate that we have had showing support for our struggle.’
UCU striker Steve Connolly said: ‘Even though I am near pension age I am sacrificing three days of my salary so younger members will get a better pension.
‘It is entirely ethical to take strike action, all the wealth should be evenly distributed.’

Maths student, Henry Nye, supporting the strike told News Line: ‘It is clear that the University should pay more towards their staff pensions.
‘Universities are being run more like businesses, I was going into the library the other day and the new scanner technology at the entrance referred to me as another ‘shopper’ entering!
‘It’s important staff and student are not pitted against each other because that only helps those with the money.’
Also on the picket Physics student Natalia Kubica said: ‘The same reason students have to pay exorbitant tuition fees is why this strike is happening .
‘It is the marketisation of higher education and the priority of profit over workers’ rights.
Students have a duty to support the strike because poor staff working conditions affects student learning conditions.’

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