Universities have been among the worst offending employers of the crisis so far.
Sussex University has effectively sacked all staff on temporary contracts. King's College London, despite an easy "do what you can, don't worry" attitude to its academic staff, has sacked cleaner and UVW activist Percy Yunganina for missing a hearing that he didn’t attend due to government social distancing guidelines.
Cleaners at the University of London have had their hours and therefore pay cut by half. Catering staff at the University of Essex have been laid off with no guarantee of pay, as have outsourced workers at the University of London’s Student Central bar.
Most universities and student lettings companies are refusing to let students terminate their contracts early, despite most having been required to move home at short notice - i.e. they are asking students to pay rent for accommodation in which, because of the epidemic, they are not living.
In response, rent strikes have been launched at SOAS, University of London, Bristol Student Digs, the University of Birmingham and Surrey (which has won its first demand).
Students involved in Student Strike Solidarity are demanding that our universities:
• cancel upcoming rent for all;
• expand hardship funds (full-time students do not have access to Universal Credit);
• decide new forms of assessment democratically, with teaching staff and students in each department;
• stop monitoring international students’ attendance and extend visa sponsorship;
• guarantee full sick pay for all staff, no redundancies
• give a guarantee of two years’ work to all casual staff, and a commitment to end outsourcing and casualisation.
We also want
• wages for health and social care students on the front lines
• mental health and crisis support for students still in university accommodation
• empty university accommodation to be used to house homeless people during the pandemic.
The demands can be read in full at studentstrikesolidarity.com/demands. Resources for rent strikes, plus updates and opportunities for clicktivism can be found at @occupation_hub and studentstrikesolidarity.com/rent-strike-resources.