STUDENTS across the country are planning marches, student strikes and occupations to support Tuesday’s nationwide lecturers strike over pay.
At Sussex University in Falmouth near Brighton, students, following the lead of the recent Birmingham occupation, have re-occupied the Bramber House conference centre on their campus as part of the ongoing struggle against the privatisation of their university.
Occupier Adriano Merola Marotta told News Line: ‘In the last 24 hours we have been served with legal papers where they want to take us to court on Tuesday in order to evict us.
‘Considering that one of the main reasons we have gone into occupation is to be in here in solidarity with the staff, Tuesday, which is the day of the lecturers’ and staff strike action, will be one of the biggest days of action for us.
‘We are currently occupying Bramber House conference centre, which used to be run by the university but was privatised on September 1st.
‘It is now owned and run by Chartwells private company, part of Compass Incorporated, which is multinational.
‘New staff working for Chartwells do not get holiday pay or sick pay, they are on zero-hour contracts and have to work 48 hours instead 36.5 in order to be paid overtime.
‘On Tuesday we will be out supporting the lecturers and university staff on the picket lines from 600.am in the morning.
‘There is a big demonstration in town in Brighton city centre organised by all three unions on strike, Unite, Unison and UCU, at 11.00am.
‘Students are attending from Chichester, Brighton University, Sussex as well as the local FE colleges.
‘We will continue our occupation and fight this until our demands are met.’
Birmingham university students have also planned to join in the lecturers strike.
They have recently been forcibly evicted from a week-long occupation of the university Senate Chamber in protest at rising tuition fees, the selling off of student loans to private debt collectors, and the pay and conditions of university staff.
Hattie Craig, Birmingham’s Vice-President of Education at the Guild of students, told News Line: ‘On Tuesday there is going to be a big demonstration on campus which we are calling on students to join, and there will be a further escalation of disruption.
‘The staff at Birmingham have been treated terribly by management.
‘Last year they tried to change the pay and conditions of 361 support staff, they keep putting academics on more casualised contracts, and PhD students who are working as teachers are not given contracts at all and are considered agency workers, meaning they have far fewer rights.
‘The one per cent pay rise offered to lecturers which sparked this dispute is a pay cut in real terms and it is absolutely ridiculous.’
Meanwhile, lecturers’ union UCU yesterday demanded an inquiry into the ‘staggering increase’ in the amount of taxpayers’ money being ploughed into student loans paid out for private colleges.
In their statement UCU said: ‘There are 30,000 students at private providers accessing student loans to pay for their tuition.
‘The total outlay on public support to these students is reported to have rocketed to more than £300 million, with the taxpayer expected to pick up the cost of £175 million of this figure.’
UCU general secretary Sally Hunt said: ‘We raised this issue time and again with ministers but, on the back of these staggering increases in the handing over of public money, we are now asking the Public Accounts Committee to properly investigate this mess.
‘We specifically warned David Willetts about the dangers of opening up more state-backed loans to private colleges to cover their students’ fees. There were no quality control checks in place and no limits on the number of students they could recruit. What did they think would happen?’