Socialist Worker

Picket and occupy: lessons of Sussex university

Lecturers struck, students occupied – and activists were reinstated at Sussex university last week. Now their fight enters a new phase, writes Tom Walker

Issue No. 2194

Sussex students show support for their striking lecturers on Thursday of last week (Pic: Socialist Worker)

Sussex students show support for their striking lecturers on Thursday of last week (Pic: Socialist Worker)


Sussex University campus was abuzz with activity last week as student and worker militancy came together. Lecturers struck while students were in occupation.

Activists hope their joint fight against cuts and in defence of education and will offer a template and an inspiration to all those fighting back.

The lecturers’ strike gathered huge support from students. Dozens joined the picket line, handing out leaflets. No one could fail to notice that an atmosphere of resistance had taken hold.

Victory

The day ended in a massive victory with the Sussex Six – six students suspended for protesting against cuts – winning reinstatement.

Lecturers and other workers in the UCU union were striking against 115 threatened job cuts as students entered their eighth day of occupation against the cuts and suspensions.

Sussex UCU president Paul Cecil said, “It’s a fantastic turnout today, and a very solid strike.

“And we’re hugely grateful for the support we’ve had from the students. Student occupiers were here at 7am helping us set up the picket lines.

“This should be happening across the country.”

The student occupiers also came out to join the picket for a lunchtime rally. Owen Holland read a statement from the occupation. It read, “We have been occupying for eight days and in that time there must have been over 1,000 students through the doors.

“We’re told there is no alternative. We are the alternative!”

People at the rally chanted, “Students and workers, unite and fight.” Many students wore UCU T-Shirts and held “Defend jobs/defend education” placards. Hundreds signed a petition titled “Students support the lecturers”.

The student union has put collection buckets in all of its shops and bars and raised more than £700 for the strike fund.

Local workers also came to back the strike. Holly Smith and Dave Russell, Brighton bins GMB shop stewards, had taken the day off work to come to the picket line.

Holly told Socialist Worker, “When we struck in November the students came to our picket line to support us. We know some of the suspended students from then. This is just the start of the cuts to public services to come.”

Meeting

At a student union emergency general meeting the day before, more than 850 students voted overwhelmingly to oppose the cuts and back the strikes. They passed a motion of no confidence in the vice chancellor.

Lucy Robinson, a history lecturer and UCU member, told Socialist Worker, “Today has been inspiring.

“This is the first part of the battle over public service cuts – together with the BA strikes, the RMT, the civil service workers and more.”

The term is now over at Sussex – but students and workers are going to spend the Easter break planning a teach-in for the first week back.

Jasmine Pike, an English student, said, “What’s important now is to go even further. Management are crumbling.

“We mustn’t calm down – we need to push harder.”


Suspended students reinstated

Pickets heard at around 2pm on Thursday that the suspended Sussex Six had been reinstated.

Students mobbed them. Everyone was running, jumping, shouting, hugging.

Simon Englert, one of the six, told Socialist Worker, “This is a massive victory. It shows a united fightback can win. Strikes work! Mass movements work!”

Syed Bokhari, another of the six said, “It’s no coincidence that we’ve got back on campus on a strike day.”

The students who were still in occupation came out and joined the rally.

But the battle is not over. The six still face disciplinary hearings, and the fight goes on to get all charges dropped.


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Tue 23 Mar 2010, 19:30 GMT
Issue No. 2194
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