Some excellent news from Leeds University. Students there have rejected a motion at the referendum which would have mandated their union to oppose lecturers strikes. Earlier this year Leeds UCU organised an extremely impressive campaign in defence of jobs and education, which ultimately won major concessions from their management. Strike action was threatened, with an impressively large number of people signing up for pickets and voting to strike. This action never happened, because management backed down.
However, throughout this the leadership of the students’ union played an absolutely shameful role. Sabbatical Officers set up a function on their website allowing students to email their lecturers asking them not to strike, and made it clear that the union would be completely unsupportive. Thankfully this campaign was not effective, what was far more effective was the UCU’s ‘we support our lecturer’ campaign. Nonetheless, the Students’ Union was able to argue that they were merely acting in the interests of students. Todays result makes it clear that there is a strong feeling of support for lecturers strikes amongst students. When asked “Should LUU oppose industrial action on campus that negatively impacts on the education of students?” 891 voted no, with only 717 voting yes. Considering the support of the leadership and union machine for the yes vote, this vote is very significant.
This is extremely important. As the news from Middlesex shows, the attacks on education are very real, and very vicious. To stop them will require maximum unity between students, staff and the wider community. This result shows that there is a real basis to build this unity.