In the face of a threatened £35 million wave of cuts, with 54 jobs already axed and 700 more at risk, lecturers at Leeds University have voted overwhelmingly to strike to save their jobs.
On a 65.8% turn-out, lecturers voted overwhelmingly for strike action and for action short of a strike. Leeds University UCU have called a series of strike dates, on Thursday 25 February, Tuesday 2 March and Thursday 4 March. These dates should see mobilisations of students, education staff and workers in other sectors in solidarity.
The teachers voted to strike despite an anti-strike campaign waged by the Leeds University Students’ Union. Called “Education First”, the scab campaign sought to persuade students to harass their teachers into voting against the strike. This is indicative of the general tenor of the leadership of the “official” UK student movement over recent years — an anti-worker, sectional, philistine attitude to politics in the education sector, that justifies attacks on staff with talk of “defending the student experience”.
It’s telling that the National Union of Students executive and many other student union executives around the country offered no comment. In a healthy student movement, a campaign like “Education First” should provoke outrage!
But students and staff involved in the Leeds University Against Cuts campaign, part of the National Campaign Against Fees and Cuts, fought back against the leadership of the student union and organised solidarity with lecturers.
Ruth, a member of the campaign, told Solidarity, “The uproar that Education First provoked spurred a lot of people on — I think it had the opposite effect to what was intended. It’s good to see lecturers taking action, and they have a lot of backing from students. We’ll be organising demonstrations and going down to the picket lines — and we want to see solidarity and support from the rest of the student movement, like the occupiers at Sussex Uni got the other week.”