Student-worker solidarity campaigns have been set up at almost every striking university, and many student unions have voted to support the strikes, including several who did not support them in 2018.
Lancaster UCU said they had bigger numbers on the first day of this year’s strike than their biggest day in 2018. They also had a visit from Hong Kong students in solidarity with the democracy movement. Sussex students and UCU members held a demo after the picket, with a dragon, fire engine and speeches from Jo Grady and Caroline Lucas. Many UCU branches and student groups are co-hosting “teach-outs”.
Senior management at the University of Liverpool told students that joining picket lines was “unlawful” and would risk jeopardising international students’ visas. Sheffield Hallam management asked students to fill out a form detailing which lectures had been cancelled due to the strike. After pressure from students on social media and mass joke submissions, they removed a mandatory field asking students to name the lecturer responsible.
Manchester Student Union’s General Secretary signed a joint statement with university management about minimising disruption during the strikes and urged students to cross picket lines to attend lectures. Brighton student union, who do not support the strikes, have prevented societies including the Labour Club from publicly supporting them too. “Unofficial” student solidarity on picket lines took place despite this.
NUS President Zamzam Ibrahim addressed a UCU rally in Manchester, and NUS as a whole have publicly declared support for the strike and sent resources to student unions. NUS is also backing a statement signed by groups such as Rent Strike, People and Planet, and local activist groups calling for vice chancellors and UUK to negotiate with UCU, management to prevent any docking of staff pay, threats or intimidation to striking staff, and to cancel the monitoring of international students’ attendance of lectures during strike days.
This is good: it probably accounts for the increase in student union support for the strikes. But NUS have given no signs of call-outs for action, attempts to mobilise students outside of social media, or any plans to organise regional or national demonstrations and meetings.
The Student Left Network is hosting a student-worker solidarity national gathering on Saturday 30 November in Sheffield. We’ll be discussing the politics of the strike and what’s coming up next, coordinating action for the remaining three days of the strike and the later action-short-of-strike period, and debating how we should take the student-worker solidarity movement forward.