'The day so far has been exciting, energetic and incredibly positive', reports Sam Dathi from the SOAS solidarity occupation
Last night, myself and other students occupied SOAS in solidarity with our teachers who today join other university staff in joint industrial action by UCU, Unison and Unite against falling wages. Last week, the SOAS student union voted unanimously to support our teachers on the picket line.
Across the country, university teachers are angry and rightly so. They have seen their salaries drop in real terms by 13% since 2008. Sadly, recent negotiations over pay have proved fruitless due to the intransigence of employers. Teachers have no choice now but to take mass industrial action and to continue until their demands are met. British universities are sitting on a massive surplus of over £1 billion, yet are unwilling to invest in decent wages for the staff that have made this country’s universities some of the best in the world. University management have no problem, however, paying senior management massive salaries. For example, the principal and director of SOAS, Paul Webley, receives a fat-cat salary of around £190,000 a year.
As part of our occupation, we set up camp in the lobby and sung strike songs into the early hours of the night. On Skype, we chatted with students from Sussex University who were also in occupation in support of their staff.
Early this morning, we joined teachers and students on the picket line. Scabbing has been encouragingly low. There have been inspiring speeches from staff and lively music from the SOAS samba band as well as teach-outs on the lawn. The day so far has been exciting, energetic and incredibly positive.
These cuts to wages are symptomatic of the cruel and cynical austerity programme pursued by the Coalition government and supported by most of the political establishment. The only way we can defeat the cuts in education and elsewhere is by building a united, mass movement connecting students and teachers with the wider public. This Saturday, hundreds of students from across the country will convene for what is likely to be the biggest student anti-austerity meeting since the cuts began, the Student Assembly Against Austerity. The initiative arises from the massive People’s Assembly Against Austerity in June this year, which saw 4,500 people come together at Westminster Central Hall to form a national coalition to fight the cuts.
Join us for the Student Assembly on Saturday. United we can win.