The Solidarity Federation Education Union (SFEU) is a new union that cuts across the divide and has members in different education sectors within the same workplace. Here is the view of one of our student members on the current University strikes being taken by Unite, UCU and Unison, among other unions. Our power lies in organisation and in a unitary union based on direct democracy.
"What about the students?"
What about us? I'm a student, I support the strikes. Most of my friends are students, they do too. In fact, from my time attending rallies and picket lines (and generally chatting with people around me), I haven't spoken to a student who confidently stands against the strikes, I've only heard rumours they exist.
I've heard from those who support strikers, those who don't know much about them, and those who don't care to know. The common theme between these groups is frustration, but not at those striking workers. Even the students who haven't heard about the pensions, or casualised contracts, or 15% gender pay gap, or 9% disability pay gap, or 17% pay gap between black and white staff in the sector feel frustrated. They're frustrated at an institution that charges so much for vital education, an institution that invests their money in the fossil fuel industries or hands it over to vice chancellors in the form of enormous salaries and expenses, an institution that pays so little to its essential workers that many received more from the strike fund than from their usual wages.
Articles and media interviews often try to spin our frustration into a weapon to beat workers with, but even if we don't know all the details we can see the problems staring us in the face. We know who is there if we need help, whether it's academic, mental health, accommodation or career based. We can see the value in having staff who aren't overworked and underpaid teaching us, who can help us find what we need, who ensure that our campus is clean and safe, who work to support our various needs. We know that our learning conditions are the working conditions for countless people.
The recent elections at my university student union prove all this. Candidates were asked to sign a pledge to recognise and support the university staff on strike, and all but one of the elected candidates signed! This pro-strike majority shows the attitude of the university students and it is a positive one, that the best way to bring an end to these disputes is for universities to accept the fair and reasonable demands of their staff and workplace unions.
Victory to the students. Victory to the workers.
Victory for a university and a society run by us, for us.