Trustees met with boos and chants of 'Students and Workers Unite and Fight'
On Thursday night students of the University of East Anglia gathered to protest the restructuring of their Student Union. The proposed plans involve large-scale redundancies and reduction in student services. These decisions were agreed by the Trustee Board of union – the legal custodians comprised mostly of officers and unelected external trustees. In contrast these plans were rejected on three separate occasions by union council – the union's most democratic and representative body, who called for these proposals to be halted in lieu of full and proper consultation with staff and students.
The proposed cuts to union services come as a result of the University management's refusal to grant the union a fair block grant. The current block grant stands as one of the lowest in UK higher education institutions. In a period where tuition fees have rocketed, and university management continue to receive inflation-busting pay rises – most recently the university's ex-Vice-Chancellor receiving a five-figure salary rise – yet refuse to give students a fair share. The university management deny funds to the union, as well as implementing cuts of their own, such as the devastating closure of the world-renowned School of Music in 2012.
In response to this, the union management have bowed down to university pressure, and declared drastic cuts to union infrastructure – specifically its well-regarded entertainments department. This follows a cost-cutting scheme two years ago, which included cutting student staff wages to below the living wage. Student campaigners have grown frustrated with this process, and argued that the union should demand the university fulfil its obligation to students, instead of jumping through hoops, making massive redundancies and reducing the union infrastructure further.
Students have demanded that the Board of Trustees throw out these proposals, and trustees attending were met with fierce opposition including boos and chants of 'Students and Workers Unite and Fight' as they entered the meeting.
The union council had rejected the proposals three times, including two censures: one of the trustees for the initial proposal, and one of the Full-time Sabbatical Officers for attempting to see it through. The petition demands:
- For the current restructuring process be halted immediately, until the campaign for a higher Bloc Grant is fully exhausted.
- For the Management Committee and the Trustee Board to confirm that there will be no compulsory redundancies within the newly introduced structure.
- That the plans for restructure are re-evaluated, clearly defined, and properly graded with a new timeline, through consultation with staff. The petition has achieved nearly 500 signature in only a matter days.
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