Solidarity statement with occupations around the UK

Students at the University of London Senate House occupation are currently facing unacceptable aggression whilst being forcibly removed from the premises. Three Sussex University students have been suspended for taking part in the occupation of Bramber House; University of Birmingham students are facing court action over occupations; University of Sheffield management took court action to prevent further occupations after students occupied on Monday night.

We at the University of Edinburgh stand in full solidarity with all students facing victimisation over action against the privatisation and marketisation of education and for supporting staff campaigns for fair pay in the higher education sector.

Continued attacks on students for fighting for their rights will not silence us. Just this week we have seen ten universities go into occupation over cuts to staff pay, the privatisation of the student loan book, and huge pay inequalities within institutional structures. More action is sure to follow. Scare tactics by university management did not work in the past, and will not work in the present.

The University are worried because when students take action properly they can actually win. We’ll be continuing to fight for decent pay and conditions for University staff, for a democratically accountable students union and control of our universities by students and staff. The university management will fight back with extreme violence, but they have no legitimacy and they know it.

We are united against cuts, inequalities and continued attacks on the least fortunate in order to fund excessive pay packets for senior management. We will not give up the fight and we urge those around the country who are courageously standing up to inequality and oppression to stand strong and never give up.

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Out From The Occupation & Off To The Pickets

The University of Edinburgh occupation which began at 9.30am on Monday 2nd December was always planned to end on the morning of Tuesday 3rd December. We, the occupiers, are calling an end to the occupation in order to leave the building and join the strike. We occupied in solidarity with workers who are facing real-terms pay cuts of 13%, and are now joining them on picket lines to continue expressing the same solidarity.

We will continue to fight for our demands, and we hope that next time you will join us. This is the start of a wave of actions on our campus to fight for the rights of our staff and against the marketisation of our University. We stand in solidarity with the Universities of Sussex, Birmingham, Sheffield, Exeter, Goldsmiths and Ulster, who have also occupied over the same issues.

We call for all concerned about the future of education to join us at an organising meeting on Saturday 7th December, 3pm at the entrance to Potterow.

Please email for any further information.

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A Message of Support For Our Occupation From A Member of Staff…

“I support the occupation of the Finance Director’s Office and thank those involved for standing in solidarity with staff members. As a current tutor, I see the enormous amount of work that goes into preparing tutorials, marking essays, and providing basic support to students, much of which is unpaid and unacknowledged, but necessary and expected of us. We work alongside administrative staff who have to deal with us difficult academics and increasingly demanding students who are encouraged to get their money’s worth from the university. All of us work in university buildings that are cleaned and maintained by staff who get paid less per hour than I do, and almost £200,000 less per year than the university Vice-Chancellor. And yes, all our work is necessary to the running of this university and in the pursuit of that every elusive excellent student experience. Our work is, however, very unequally acknowledged. All our work is valuable, but the current differences in pay do not reflect this. We must stand together to demand a fairer deal for all university staff, and make sure the university listens to the demands of those striking again.”

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Statement from University of Edinburgh Occupation

We are students occupying the University of Edinburgh’s Finance Director’s office and have been in occupation since around 9.30am this morning (December 2nd). We stand in solidarity with university staff and demand that the University of Edinburgh:


  • Uses its weight and influence to argue for real-terms increases in university staff pay

  • Reduces the pay ratio between the lowest paid and highest paid staff in the university to 1:10

  • Commits not to sanction participants of the occupation


These demands come at a time when university staff are striking over a real-terms pay cut of 13% over the last five years. Members of Unison, the University and College Union, Unite and the Educational Institute of Scotland are protesting against a proposed 1 per cent increase in wages, which they say amounts to a 13 per cent pay cut in real terms since October 2008. Unite National Officer for Education Mike McCartney called the one per cent pay offer “completely unacceptable”, stating that the cumulative operating surplus in the higher education sector was now over £1 billion. The University of Edinburgh has boasted that over the last four years its staff costs have continued to decline as a proportion of total expenditure and are now 53.75%; essentially bragging about the real-terms pay cuts that staff have faced. At the same time as workers struggle to afford the day-to-day costs of living, the University of Edinburgh Principal earns a £285,000 salary, including pension contributions, a free house and a free chauffeur car. The pay ratio between the highest- and lowest-paid staff at the University of Edinburgh as of 2012 was 18.51:1 (source). This occupation is part of a process of escalation that is the culmination of democratic discussion, deliberation and debate. We are occupying in solidarity with the fact that university staff are being forced out on strike for a second time this term after management throughout the country refuse to heed their cause.


Enourmous pay inequalities are just one symptom of the increasing commercialisation and marketisation of higher education throughout the United Kingdom. Massive tuition fee rises have been pushed through to turn education from a public good to a private asset (figures show that the new system of loans is more expensive). Critical thinking, open mindedness and the necessity of knowledge to democratic deliberation are being destroyed as students are increasingly forced to see higher education as a financial investment. This leaves many prospective students simply unable to afford the costs of attending university, which now includes the prospect of graduating with over £36,000 in tuition fees debt alone. Not content with this, the government has also privatised the student loan book – which means private companies are now in charge of student debt and will be able to take measures such as changing interest rates at will, adding to the complete financial uncertainty facing young people today. Inequality of access to education undermines the principle of education as a public good and only serves the interests of those already in positions of power. This situation is further exacerbated by the lack of democracy in universities and society which allows managers and politicians to impose changes from above. We need a truly democratic system which allows people to deliberate collectively and direct their own lives, rather than suffer the decisions made behind closed doors for the benefit of those in power.


Whilst the university reneges on its duty to provide a social and societal good through its refusal to support students and workers, it at the same time investing huge amounts of money in companies contributing to social unrest and destruction of the climate. The University of Edinburgh has around £30 million in investments in fossil fuel companies, which includes £4.5 million invested in Shell alone, a company responsible for human rights atrocities as well as destructive environmental processes. University investments send a clear statement about what the university as an institution supports – and investing in fossil fuel companies and the arms trade delegitimises any claim that the institution makes to support projects which contribute to sustainability and the social good.


It is clear that in all aspects of its financial priorities, the University is on a track towards destruction and inequality rather than education and social progress. This is why we have chosen to occupy the office of the Finance Director, and support the staff who are striking on the 3rd.


In solidarity,

Edinburgh University Occupation.

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Edinburgh students stage sit-in in support of striking staff

Around 40 students at the University of Edinburgh have stormed the office of the University’s finance director in support of striking staff, and are currently holding a sit-in protest.

Lecturers and support staff in universities across the UK are in an industrial dispute with employers over a pay offer that they claim represents a real-terms cut of 13% over five years and will be walking out tomorrow (Tuesday).

Kirsty Haigh, Edinburgh University Students’ Association’s Vice-President and one of the students currently in the occupation, explained why they were there. “Edinburgh University – and the university sector generally – has plenty of money. We see this every day with millions going on vanity projects and senior managers pay. We are calling on the University to see sense and give staff the pay they deserve.”

“University staff have had a real term pay cut of 13% and this is not acceptable. While the Principal earns £227,000, staff have been forced out on strike to demand the wage they deserve. We demand that the University listens to the trade unions and increases staff pay.”

 Last week, the Students’ Association sent a letter to all staff “actively encouraging them to take strike action”. The letter stated that “in the short term this will indeed affect our education, but the long term benefits are significantly vaster. It is critical that students and staff struggle collectively.”

Tomorrow’s strikes follow an earlier day of walk-outs on the 31st of October, which saw the National Union of Students and Students’ Associations across Scotland coming out to show support for their staff, resisting what they said were attempts by management to ‘divide and rule’.

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Useful resources on higher education reform

The world of higher education is complex and at times tough to penetrate. The effects of the marketisation of education are proving to be disastrous for the sector, for students, for academics, and will ultimately prove devastating for wider society.

To help you gain an insight into how these changes are being enacted the National Campaign Against Fees and Cuts (NCAFC) have compiled a useful list of resources. If you have any recommendations for additions then please do comment below.


The Assault on Universities, ed. Des Freedman & Michael Bailey (Pluto Press, October 2011)


WonkHE – the home of higher education wonks

Exquisite Life

Critical Education, by Andrew Mcgettigan

HE Planning Blog, by Andrew Fisher

Registrarism, by Paul Greatrix


HE White Paper and Technical Consultation, Department of Business and Innovative Skills

Alternative White Paper: In Defence of Public Higher Education

Developing future university structures: new funding and legal models, Universities UK

Higher Education in an Age of Austerity, Policy Exchange

An Insider’s Guide to Finance and Accounting in Higher Education, JNCHES


Campaign for the Public University

Research Fortnight

UCU: Fighting the White Paper

HE Reform 2012-13, BIS and HEFCE

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Guest Post: What is The Value of Higher Education?

On the 20th of September, The Edinburgh University Anti-Cuts Coalition held a public meeting to discuss the nature of the attacks on International students and how they relate to the ongoing attacks on students more broadly. Below is the text of a speech given by a lecturer at the university, Dr. Tom Watson.

I want to talk about the language employed within the media and mainstream politics about higher education. It is difficult to talk about what universities are, let alone what universities are for, partly because they are numerous and diverse but also because they/we provide education in a very wide set of areas; we do research in a similarly wide set of areas; we provide professional training. I can and will talk about what I reckon universities are for but the initial point is that to include these heterogeneous activities under one model is restricting and the model that is chosen sets the parameters for debate. The particular model that has been chosen weights the policies in a particular direction. 

If we start off with the idea of ‘instrumental’ and ‘intrinsic’ goods of education, that is, valuing education for the things that it enables people to do (instrumental) and valuing education for things that are good in themselves (intrinsic). Currently, justifications for higher education only operate in the instrumental register, the recurring question is ‘what is that good for?’ And in fact it is narrower than that in that it is limited to instrumental good in solely economic terms. So we find defenders of higher education joining the argument within this frame and it pre-sets the most likely conclusion. This is not inherently an anti-higher education discourse but different disciplines are not working on a level playing field. It is easier for some areas of science to play the benefiting the economy card: pharmaceuticals, medicine, and armaments more than mathematics or theoretical physics. It is easier for business studies or engineering than history of art or divinity. I see, hear and read the efforts of my own field, history, to play the game. This used to be in terms of talking about ‘transferable skills’ but now it is about ‘outreach.’ It used to be that studying history was promoted as providing skills easily translated into entrepreneurship or commerce; now it is that teaching history has an economic payback in terms of ‘heritage’ and ‘tourism’. This is complete bollocks. Downton Abbey or Braveheart do more for heritage or tourism than a familiarity with the medieval crop systems of open fields. And in any case, surely, that argument would only justify teaching British history? Why should we teach the history of Japan? It would just benefit their tourism. The consequence of this part of the discourse is that it creates a presumed proof that some sciences and professional training deserve funding to a greater degree than other disciplines and that presumption comes through in the weighting of the budget – just look at the different buildings at this university: which are the bright, new and shiny buildings?

The second part of the discourse that needs interrogating is the straw-figure of ‘the taxpayer’: why should the taxpayer pay for this? The ‘taxpayer’ has clearly not been to university him or herself which seems odd given how far the percentage of the population with higher or further education experience has risen in the past twenty or thirty years. This ‘taxpayer’ also only ever evaluates things by their economic impact, presumably never having been sick, never having read a history book, gone to a museum or watched a movie. This mythical taxpayer plainly does not perceive any intrinsic good in education, only using the instrumental good of money. I am a taxpayer and I am not this ‘taxpayer’: I want to pay tax in order to fund a welfare state, a national health service and a public sector that concentrates on delivery rather than profit.

The last part of the discourse is the individual. Not only is the criterion for approval limited to economic growth, it is concentrated on the individual student. Go to university and get a well-paid job. Where there are jobs there can be some truth in that but also huge variety, partly reflective of what gets valued. You can go to university and become a lawyer or a financial consultant and make a few bob; you can go to university and become a social worker or an environmental activist and make a less impressive income. But that’s not what I want to focus on right now. The discourse talks about clients or, even worse, ‘consumers.’ The benefits of higher education on the individual and on the country are seen as economic. The rhetoric of a market in education as it is funded, designed and received, limits the perception of both the intrinsic but also the instrumental good of education. I want the discourse to be changed in two ways. I want it to think about, to talk about citizenship and society. To my mind, a large part of the instrumental good of higher education is that it enables people to critically engage, to operate with a hermeneutics of suspicion, that is, not just to lap up the ‘we’re all in this together’, the ‘benefit scroungers’ and the ‘worker’s rights will cripple the entrepreneurs’ rhetoric but to test these assertions. A fully-fledged democracy is one in which politicians and newspapers are not taken on trust, are held to be answerable to their electorate and their purchasers. Higher education can contribute to creating a society where it is harder to pull the wool over our eyes, where it is harder for the wealthy to use a recession to line their pockets while punishing the poor in terms of taxation and assaulting the welfare state. When we get to add the functioning of citizenry as a means of keeping politicians on their toes, if need be calling them to account and measuring the success of a society by the way it treats the poor and vulnerable, when we add those criteria to our assessment of evaluating higher education, we will have a more level playing field and a better set of budgetary priorities. We need to work against accepting the myth of free market economy as a solution and re-establish the idea of education as a source of social good. We need to create a discourse that values education as a contribution to an engaged and active citizenship.

– Tom Webster

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Massive day of strikes and action against government cuts and attacks on pensions.

Students and educational workers were yesterday heavily involved in a day of strikes, pickets, occupations and protests in response to Westminster’s proposed pension changes and ideological dismantling of public services.
The day began early, at around 6am, when unknown groups of activists super glued locks and entrances to buildings around Edinburgh University campus. Doors to the David Hume Tower, Crystal Macmillian Building, Main University Library and George Square lecture theatre were, among a number of others, glued shut in an effort to stop the building being opened on a strike day. The University were yet to comment on their response to this action and its effects on building closure, but one source who works for the Uni and wishes to remain anonymous said the lockdown caused ‘maximum disruption’ and security staff ‘went mental’.
Banners were dropped from the medical school and anonymous pro-strike graffiti was found to be on a number of walls around the University.

Around 80 students who had been taking part in the Appleton Tower occupation ended their stay at 6.30am to join pickets and actions around the city – with many meeting more activists from the city to join an open top ‘Battle Bus’ which toured around various pickets from 7am till 9.30am, distributing coffee, hot rolls and support to picketers. This bus, organised by a number of students and activists from the Edinburgh branch of the Coalition Of Resistance, was enthusiastically received at pickets at the Scottish Parliament, the Tollcross Job Centre, Tynecastle High School and Edinburgh College of Art amongst others.

Morning pickets at Kings Buildings, Moray House, Charles Stewart House, Old College, New College, Main Library, Teviot Place and Edinburgh College of Art were well attended by students and lecturers alike, with many potential picket crossers engaging in discussion with those on strike and choosing to turn back in solidarity with the strike throughout the day.
A crowd of lecturers, tutors, library workers and students gathered at 10am outside the main university library to take part in a ‘Teach Out’ with speeches, songs and poems from supportive academics, union workers and students.

This moved to a student feeder rally in Bristo Square, where around 300 students gathered in order to join the main union rally near Edinburgh Castle. This main protest march, as part of the STUC’s ‘Day of Action for Pension Justice’, saw workers, families, students and claimants numbering at least 20,000 march from Edinburgh Castle to Scottish Parliament. Despite an early start for many, the student part of the march was full of life and energy, with sit downs in the road, a constant supply of innovative chanting and a real sense of change in the air.

By the time the march was coming to an end reports were already coming in of an occupation at the Forest Cafe church hall space, which has been empty since the community cafe and social centre which previously resided there was forced out by new owners following the University of Edinburgh Settlement’s fraudulent collapse into bankruptcy.
People from within the occupation tonight released this statement:

‘We are occupying the Forest Café. We need people. There’s free access so far but as soon as the police manage to get in contact with owners they will probably not let anybody in. Please, if you can spend the night come ASAP. with bedding. please bring extra bedding with you so people inside do not need to risk going out and not being let in again.
and if you can’t come, it’d be a massive help if you could drop any type of bedding .’

More info at Indymedia. 

This comes as George Osborne and the Con-Dem coalition declare all-out war on workers; with an extra 310,000 public sector job losses, a new pay cap to follow current wage freezes and the implentation of local rather than national pay rates alongside the current plans to drastically damage public pension provision. All this, as the Government’s decision to implement deep, pro-market spending cuts plunges the nation into the worst economic outlook since the end of the Second World War. Students and workers understand that these measures effectively amount to a right-wing destruction of our public services and yesterday they took action as part of the largest UK strike in decades in a huge show of solidarity, anger and hope.

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Picket information for tomorrow morning

Bit last minute, but here’s some details for the morning – see you bright and early!

Edinburgh peeps – help support the picket, help make this strike as successful as possible.

Here is the information for people who want to go and picket tomorrow morning in support of their lecturers, university staff and other fellow students in defending education and attacks on pensions. 

Contact the named people with any questions, to get an idea about numbers or find out what things might be useful to bring along. Pickets officially start at 8.30am, but people need to go down earlier to the Teviot Place picket as this is where the post gets delivered.

Spread the word!

KB Corner – Ali -07725033485
Just near this –

Moray House – Mike W 07917356036

Charles Stewart House – Max 07793652131

Old College (Front and Back) – Innes 07908783366

New College – Aurora 07427177800

Main Library – Kate – 07917858961

Teviot Place – Mike S – 07540248868

ECA Front and back – Abi – 07840474721

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Events in the next few days


5.30pm Appleton Tower lobby
‘Musical Chairs’ Discussion Groups
Small group chats about: the White Paper, feminism, anarchism, the rights of addicts, radical journalism, the labour movement in Egypt, radical education. We’ll rotate so you can go to a few! (Hence the ‘musical chairs’ title.)


7pm ‘An Introduction to the Strikes and Why We Should Support Them!’ Appleton Tower Lecture Theatre 5


6.45am Coalition of Resistance open top ‘Battle Bus’ going round picket lines leaving at 7am from Appleton Tower – meet at 6.45am outside Appleton

10am Teach Out – outside George Square Library. Speakers will include lecturers, students and local campaigners.

11.30am – Student Feeder for N30 march – Support the Strikes. Starting from Bristo Square.

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Wise words from our resident Soup Dragon

Soup Dragon presents soup


At something like an occupation or a picket line, hot food works wonders for morale. The problem is, they usually take place in locations that are a bit short of cooking facilities, but with a bit of planning, it’s actually quite easy to arrange a supply of home-made food. Most people will have all of the necessary equipment sitting around at home anyway, and since you can make a huge pot of soup for less than £5, it works out a lot cheaper than buying everyone a takeaway.

I’ve included recipes for two variations on lentil soup, because it’s very straightforward, the ingredients are cheap, and it doesn’t contain anything which people are likely to be allergic to. In general, soup is a good choice because you only need a mug or a disposable cup to drink it out of, so you don’t have to worry about finding cutlery.

Remember, if you’re planning to take food (or any other supplies) to a picket or occupation, it’s often a good idea to get in touch with them first. Someone else might already have offered to bring them dinner, or maybe they’re up to their eyes in biscuits, but could really use some more cups. Surprises are fun, but they aren’t always useful.


  • A really big soup pot with a lid
  • Stick blender or potato masher
  • Blankets or clean clothes for insulation
  • A bag large enough to hold both
  • Ladle
  • Paper or polystyrene cups

Basic Lentil Soup

A vegetarian version of Mammy Soup Dragon’s old recipe. Makes about 6-7 litres of soup.


  • 500-600g of red lentils
  • 2kg of carrots
  • 3 onions
  • Vegetable stock powder/cubes (dairy and gluten free if possible)
  • 2 tbsp dried parsley
  • Salt and pepper


  1. Rinse the lentils and put them in the pot and add water so that the lentils are covered in about 10cm of water. Start bringing the water to the boil – this will take a while because of the quantities involved.
  2. Chop the onions and add them to the pot.
  3. Peel and chop the carrots, throwing them into the pot as you go. This may take a while, so find some comrades to help you if you can.
  4. Add sufficient stock for the volume of soup (this will vary according to the type you’re using).
  5. Stir occasionally to stop anything from sticking to the bottom of the pot. The lentils will absorb water as they cook, so you may need to add more.
  6. When the carrots are soft, blend the soup until it is smooth. If you don’t have a blender, you could mash it instead.
  7. Add the parsley, salt and pepper.

Spicy Tomato Lentil Soup

This one’s a bit more complicated, and it could be expensive if you don’t already have a well-stocked spice rack. Makes 5-6 litres of soup.


  • 2 onions
  • 5/6 cloves of garlic
  • Vegetable oil
  • 3 tins of chopped tomatoes
  • Up to 1kg of carrots
  • 3 cups lentils
  • Stock powder/cubes
  • Half a tube of tomato puree
  • About 1 tsp each of chilli powder, coriander, cumin, ginger & smoked paprika (or substitute other spices, depending on your own taste and what’s available)
  • 1 tbsp parsley
  • Salt and pepper
  1. Chop the onions and garlic.
  2. Fry the onions over a low heat in a generous amount of oil until they’re almost translucent, then add the garlic, and when that’s cooked, add the spices.
  3. Add the tomatoes to the pot, and give them a bit of a mash. You don’t want a completely smooth texture, just a smaller tomato chunks.
  4. Rinse the lentils and throw them into the pot. Top it up with water, add the stock and tomato puree, the leave it to simmer.
  5. Peel and chop the carrots, and add those.
  6. Cook until the carrots and lentils are soft.
  7. Add parsley, salt, pepper, and maybe a bit more of some of the spices.

Transporting Hot Food:

It takes a long time for a large volume of soup to go cold, but there are a few basic principles you can apply to maximise the length of time it stays really hot, and to make it easier to transport.

Use something to hold the lid in place on top of the pot. The contents will slosh around and knock the lid off if you don’t.
This can be achieved with string, or with with a folded-up tea towel wrapped around the handles.

Affixing the lid with a tea-towel

You need to insulate the bag you’re carrying your food in, so that there is padding around the pot on every side. This keeps the heat in, and it also means that you don’t burn your legs when the bag bounces off them.

Insulating the soup from the cold (and your legs)

Make sure the top of the pot is well covered. This is for camouflage as well as insulation, because some bus drivers don’t like letting people on with hot food, so this disguises what you’re carrying.

Thoroughly disguised as a bag of scrumptious bedding

If it’s not going to be eaten immediately when you reach your destination, throw a few extra blankets or coats over the top of your insulated bag for good measure.

This method will keep your food properly piping hot for at least 2 1/2 hours. It probably lasts even longer, but I’ve never had any reason to test it beyond that point.

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Mythbuster: The truth about unions (and strikes)

Red Pepper has posted this article about unions and strikes in response to anti-strike rhetoric in the press.

If you’ve ever wondered what the point of unions is, why people go on strike, and whether it’s true that people go on strike without negotiating, read it!

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Walking bus

I can’t believe we haven’t posted about this yet, because it’s great.

Some people involved in the occupation, and some outside, have set up a Meadows Walking Bus so that people who need to walk across the Meadows during the evening and at night have people to walk with.

For more information and updates see the Facebook event.

Also, the Women’s Action Group, among other groups and individuals, is holding an event called ‘Organising a response to the recent Meadows attacks’. It’s at 7pm in DHT room 8.16 *tomorrow night* (Monday 28th).

Of course, these aren’t adequate solutions to sexual assault, but we hope they will help. The blame lies with the rapists, not those who have been assaulted, but if any of these ideas could help even just a little bit, they are well worth doing. Kate x

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Banners and giant posters!

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Our Demands

Our principles:

  • Education should be free: funded through higher taxation on corporations and the rich.
  • Education is a social, public good: universities should not be run for private profit.
  • Universities should be democratically organised: directly controlled by staff and students.

We demand immediately from Edinburgh University:

  • No legal or academic repercussions for anyone involved.
  • Staff who take strike action on November 30th should have no pay deducted because of their action.
  • Staff who refuse to cross picket lines despite not being in a union which is on strike should face no recriminations.
  • That an all student email be sent out on the issue of the November 30th strikes outlining the position of management, UCU and EUSA.
  • Free tapwater in all university cafes, putting the welfare of staff and students before profit.
  • Withdrawal of the proposed 36k fees at Edinburgh University.
  • Full and open consultation between management, staff and students concerning fees.
  • No privatisation of education and no privately funded courses or research.
  • No cuts to courses or compulsory redundancies.
  • To guarantee no cuts to library, student support or learning resources.
  • A living wage for all workers at Scottish universities including those subcontracted.
  • Tutor should be paid for all the work they do; tutors need to be paid for enough time to provide proper feedback.
  • University senior management must take the average salary of university staff, or resign.
  • A public condemnation of the Westminster Government’s Higher Education White Paper.
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November 30th: The women fight back

Earlier this week, the Guardian asked the women of twitter what pissed them off most about the Con-Dem government. It was a testimony to women’s ingenuity that so many were able to fit so much into 140 characters. Among the many, many answers given were childcare cuts, attacks on employment rights, legal aid cuts, scrapping EMA, tuition fees, rape crisis funding cuts, attacks on benefits, sex education, female unemployment, cuts to mental health services and reductions in domestic violence support. This government is waging an all out war on women, while telling us to “Calm down, dears”.

November 30th will see the biggest strike this country has even known – more workers out on strike than during the Miners Strike, the Winter of Discontent or even the General Strike of 1926, and contrary to the popular stereotype of macho trade unionists in flatcaps with whippets, it is women who are leading the charge. The government wants to take away the “gold-plated” pensions of public sector workers, but this gold plating is as thin as gold leaf. Women in local government retire on £1,600 on average, hardly an army of Fred the Shreds.

According to the government the people who will be on strike on Wednesday are parasites who contribute nothing to the economy. There are the people who provide our local government services, our healthcare, our education. And they are overwhelmingly female.

This lack of value placed on public services, reflects the lack of value which is placed on women’s labour. Despite the Equal Pay act coming in in 1972, as recently as this September women were awarded compensation for years of discriminatory pay practices. The labour provided by women in the public sector in many cases are roles which women have always done – caring for elderly and disabled people, raising and educating children and nursing the ill were traditionally provided by female family members for free, and with the cuts there is a severe danger that women who provide services as a public good will again be expected to provide them for free in domestic servitude.

Benefit changes also impact disproportionately on women. In addition to the direct effect of the changes around working families tax credit and child benefit which are overwhelmingly claimed by women, cuts to disability benefits are likely to mean that women end up supporting disabled family members financially as well as practically.

The proposed changes to public sector pensions provision is an additional tax on public sector workers. While those who caused this crisis walk off with their golden handshakes huge pension pots, it is public sector workers who are expected to pick up the tab for their mismanagement.

On November 30th, the women will strike back – between two thirds and three quarters of the workers taking action will be female.

As Tyler Durden could have said

Look. The people you are coming after are the people you depend on. We cook your meals, take out your trash, look after you when you are young;nurse you when you are sick and wipe your bums when you are old.

This was originally posted here.

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Why I support the strikes

Students at the time of the last UCU strike seemed somewhat confused as to what picket lines were, and what supporting a strike means. Here is my short attempt (it’s nearly 3am here in Appleton tower) to explain it.

On the N30 strikes, you should not cross the picket lines. Whoever you are, and whether you work in the building or not, to turn around, or better yet, to join the picket, are signs of solidarity. As students, many of us are as at the mercy of the government’s whims as workers are. Students have had a long tradition of standing with the working class in their fight for better conditions. I hope that fight will carry on until the things workers have built belong to the people who have made them.

All freedoms and concessions to workers were won by hard struggle on the workers’ part, not by the benevolence of politicians, and crossing picket lines is a statement that undermines that fight. We cannot expect politicians to fight for us, in an era where the Labour leader will say “these strikes are wrong” at the drop of a hat, and if we want control of our workplaces, universities, schools and hospitals we must not wait for Labour to break promises for the thousandth time. Individualism, spearheaded in part by the Thatcherism of the 1980s, and continued by the “we’re all middle-class now” rhetoric of Blair, has led to an erosion of class consciousness, that is, the notion that those who have to prostitute themselves to the labour market in order to survive have something in common with one another. Our communities have died, and so the ones with the biggest sticks, bought with the money stolen from the hard graft of the working people, have come to rule. The workers’ first recourse is the withdrawal of that labour.

What this means is that those who break picket lines to go into work are directly taking the bosses’ side in the dispute. You cannot “stay out of it”. By crossing, you pick a side. If the workers are to win their rights over what they produce, be that goods or knowledge, it is the collective action that is useful against the violent machinery of the capitalist state, while they hold all the cards of force and money. Class war is not something started by the workers, it is waged every day by the bosses and politicians, when they drive down wages, reduce holidays and cut funding to the social wage that is not only the workers’ right, but that is bought and paid for in money and time. It is time to fight our corner. Workers will be striking on the 30th and I will be standing with them.

I am frustrated at the moralizing over “disruption” that is bandied about in the press and by extension in the mouths of those who read it uncritically. Try living as a worker, or a benefits claimant, just for a month or so. All those things you would like to do, maybe spend time with your children, go down to the pub with your mates, or even work in a job that interests and stimulates you, you will find somehow mysteriously “disrupted” by the fact that you have very little money and very little time. For one day I ask you to stand with your fellow humans as they simply ask for reform in a system that exploits them, dehumanises them and robs them of their creations. For one day I ask that you think about how fortunate many of us students are to have the opportunities being at university grants us. For one day I ask that we act as a community. For one day I ask that we listen, rather than talk.

Perhaps a little “disruption” is worth it.

This was originally posted here.

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Schedule for 26/11/11

All welcome in the Free State of Apple Town, Appleton Tower, George Square, Edinburgh
University of Edinburgh matriculation cards are required for entry outside of usual daytime opening hours
Meetings will run on time!

1100-1130 Skipping (getting food)/
1100-1130 Communications (organising mailing list, Facebook, Twitter etc)
1200-1300 Safe Space policy write-up
1300-1400 Arts & Crafts (Propaganda)
1400-1600 Demands and aims
1630-1730 Events
2000-2130 Daily round-up, planning for the next day

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We’re not weirdos, honest

It’s a Friday night, I’m missing my friend’s boozy 20something birthday (it’s her third 21st…) because I’m sitting in Appleton Tower writing about strikes.

Life fail?

Maybe, but I hope not.

Occupations are about more than just hummus eating, a coffee intake three times more than the normal and trying to fashion a pillow out of someone else’s corduroy jacket (yes, I did this last night). Earlier I actually wrote my full name on a polystyrene cup so I could re-use it. Grim.

But I’m here because important shit is happening…
Next Wednesday our lecturers and tutors will be on strike because their pensions are being significantly cut – and they are being asked to work longer to earn less.

It’s not only them on strike though – the 30th of November will be the biggest mass strike in a generation. Around *three million* people and 30 unions!

This kind of thing doesn’t happen very often.

Workers and the public sector are under attack – we need to stand up and say how much we value our nurses, teachers, electricians, lecturers…

So we’re spreading the word.
Don’t go to class on the 30th – it weakens the strike if classes go ahead.
People will be outside lecture theatres and libraries to inform people about the strike and ask them not to go in university buildings.

Join us!

As much or as little participation as you would like – from re-posting this to sleeping on the floor and going round picket lines at stupid o-clock in the morning.

Ridiculous hair is not compulsory…
(this is me btw)

Kate x

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Report – Edinburgh Occupation 23rd-24th

Following the Edinburgh University Students’ Association organised ‘RUKidding’ March against fees a group of students attempted to occupy several university management buildings across campus. Unfortunately the university and the police were tipped off prior to the action, activists encountered police guarding several of the intended sites and were met with limited success. Several activists managed to gain entry into the university’s Playfair Library (a library students don’t usually get access to and mostly reserved for corporate events) but when more tried to join them it lead to a stand-off between university security, two secretaries, fifteen activists, one of the university’s vice-principles and a very bemused delegation from Edinburgh’s Indian Consulate. The stand-off ended when the activists received word that the main group was planning to hold a meeting to determine new targets and so choose to end the attempted occupation of Playfair amicably and rejoin the main group.

Following a brief meeting activists decided to re-occupy George Square Lecture Theatre (occupied over the weekend of fresher’s week earlier this year against 9k RUK fees), with the caveat that we would move out in time for lectures to commence at 9 am the next day. The purpose of this occupation was to evaluate our options and decide a plan of action. After a (very) long meeting it was decided that we would go back into occupation in Appleton Tower, after joining the union picket of Council Chambers against the privatisation of £1 billion of public services.

On all fronts we were relatively successful, the council voted to not outsource our city’s environmental services and we are now in Appleton Tower preparing to use it as an organising space in preparation for the N30 Strikes. Tomorrow, a very sleep deprived group of activists will begin the task of planning and outreach, but right now most seem quite happy raging at Question Time being played on a lecture theatre’s screen and eating some of the delicious rice and curry donated in solidarity.

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