Following an all student vote on the ‘Motion to Back UCU Industrial Action in Pensions Dispute’ the student body has voted overwhelmingly in favour and the motion has now passed into Union policy.
In a 24 hour period, a total 718 number of votes were cast with 557 in favour (77.6%) and 151 against (21.0%), there were 10 abstentions (1.4%).
On 1 February 2018, the Sabbatical Officer team sat down to outline our stance on the upcoming UCU strikes. At this point, the contact we had received from students was limited to complaints or queries from those worried about the impact on their academic studies.
For this reason, we felt we couldn’t support the industrial action itself without a clear mandate from students, especially as (being a membership organisation) we will never make a decision without putting students at the heart of it.
However, we did fully sympathise with the cause behind the strikes, and it was clear to us that the impending pension reforms would have major negative impact on the lives of our academics, particularly younger lecturers and PhD students intending to start a career in academia.
So we got in touch with the local UCU branch to offer our support and work out how we could help them without supporting the specific strike action. We came up with a joint statement (published on both our websites on 16 February), encouraging students who were upset about the strikes to email the College Principal Paul Layzell, and promoted the lobby of College Council that took place yesterday (21 February).
We communicated this position to students well in advance of the industrial action and lobbying, and well before the College put out any response, as we were aware it was a contentious issue.
After this stance was publicised, a group of students contacted us asking to put forward a motion to extend our support to cover the strike action itself. As set out in our constitution, this has followed a process that gives the entire student body the ability to debate and vote on any motion put forward by members.
All student meetings are our highest political decision making body, and we had a successful debate at this meeting on 20 February. However we did not reach our quorum of 100 ordinary members in the room so could not hold the vote on the night.
This meant we had to take it to an online vote, which has been highly publicised across all of our platforms for a 24 hour period (in order to keep it as close to the start of the strike action as possible). The turnout has been great, with a large number of students engaging from both sides – achieving our aim of gaining as much student input as possible to make it representative of our membership.
In line with the resolutions of the motion, the Students’ Union resolves to:
Over the course of the strikes, we will continue to lobby the university to oppose changes to the USS. We will also work with UCU to keep students informed on the debate behind the strikes and why they are so crucial, including the potential to organise ‘teach outs’ within the union building, run by striking academics. In addition, our Advice Centre is here to offer any support to students affected by the strikes, you can find out more information on our website: www.su.rhul.ac.uk/advice.
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