Link to this page: http://www.socialistparty.org.uk/issue/609/8752
Building the fight against education cuts at Leeds
Last year, Michael Arthur, vice chancellor of Leeds University, announced cuts of £35 million from the university's budget, the equivalent of 700 jobs being lost. This came on top of 54 jobs lost last summer.
Iain Dalton, Socialist Students Yorkshire organiser
UCU and Unison, two of the three campus unions, have moved into dispute with management and on 13 January UCU launched a strike ballot over the question of compulsory redundancies with a mass meeting of over 250.
Leeds University student union (LUU) has played a very negative role. Firstly they sought a guarantee from university management that the cuts 'would not affect students', as if such a thing was possible. Their 'Education First' campaign calls on lecturers to vote no to strike action, arguing that this would damage students' education. Of course if the lecturers don't take strike action, many will lose their jobs - making students' education much worse.
LUU set up a web page for students to send a message to the lecturers in their department telling them not to strike. It has now been taken down, which could in part be down to the grilling the student union executive got at an anti-cuts group meeting. But the determining factor has been lecturers' replies to students explaining the real reasons for strike action and winning them over.
There is a real battle to be had in explaining to many students the need for strike action and that these cuts can be fought successfully. Despite LUU taking down the page from the website, it cannot be taken for granted that most students support strike action.
In response to the cuts, some students have formed Leeds University Against Cuts (LUAC). It has been drawing in students who wish to campaign against cutbacks and job losses, but has so far been very unclear about what it stands for and what needs to be done to stop the cuts.
Many in the LUAC are now talking about reclaiming the students union by recalling the executive and standing an anti-cuts slate in their stead or passing a referendum policy to end the 'Education First' campaign. This will require the building of mass support among students. Only on that basis would it be possible to elect a real campaigning union leadership, whose effectiveness would rely on the broad active support of students.
LUAC should engage in further public activities like petitioning, and should seek to contact UCU with a view to speaking at the beginning of lectures about the campaign and the need to support lecturers and other staff taking action.
A protest at the LUU executive has also been suggested, but the main fire of the campaign should be directed at university management, and not their stooges. If a mass campaign of students and workers is built up then the LUU bureaucracy could be bypassed or swept away.
The Yorkshire Youth Fight for Jobs demonstration will be an opportunity to oppose cuts in education and to show support for striking lecturers.
Join the Yorkshire Youth Fight for Jobs demonstration
Saturday 13 February
Assemble 12 noon, Parkinson Steps, Leeds University
Email firstname.lastname@example.org or ring/text Iain on 07809839793 or find Yorkshire Youth Fight for Jobs on Facebook.
In The Socialist 27 January 2010:
Socialist Party election campaign
Socialist Party news and analysis
Socialist Party workplace news
Socialist Party feature
Workplace Feature: IT workers in mini strike wave