Comments, criticisms, observations &c. For mass distribution in the coming weeks. Probably more palatable than the cod-eloquence previously on display & rather short of humour too. Not sure if that's a good thing
It definitely needs work on the question of the withdrawal of academic labour & the accumulation of capital. I'm not too clear on this myself to be honest.
UCL UCU stuff:
Students: we are on the brink of an academic strike.
In one of a long series of attacks - a series which has by now acquired
the air of inevitability - UCL management is once again moving against
UCL staff. In the context of an unofficial policy of 15% compulsory
redundancies which has already carried a great many into early
retirement, management have now made the sublime move (under the guise
of compliance with the Age Discrimination Act 2006, but not in fact
required by it) of abolishing a 200% jump in redundancy pay after 10
years, meaning real-terms cuts of between 15 and 25 thousand pounds
for long serving staff.
What's the context?
Over the past several years UCL's provost has been in the forefront of
the development of the new-style corporate university, leading
arguments for uncapped top-up fees and avidly pursuing corporate
funding while simultaneously launching increasingly brazen attacks on
college workers, farming out cleaning and catering (to keep blood off
management's hands while the agencies drive down wages to poverty
levels and sack anyone who complains) and appearing time and time again
to oppose lecturer's pay claims last year. Needless to say Grant draws
a salary of hundreds of thousands of pounds.
Why industrial action?
Industrial action is one of very few potentially effective (legal)
weapons the managed have to resist the impositions of management. By
withdrawing labour – or by 'working to rule', only doing precisely the
work one is contractually obliged to do – workers can interrupt the
accumulation of profit, hitting managers in the one place they care about:
But isn't it different in a university?
Yes and no. With academics, of course, the situation is a little
different – not least because what they are producing is not inanimate
commodities but us, students. When they withdraw their labour, it can
feel like they're using us as tools in a struggle that is not ours.
This is certainly what management encourage us to think. But it
strikes us that there are good reasons to think otherwise.
i) This fight has not been chosen by our teachers. This attack is in
itself a horrendous attack on conditions, and it comes in the context
of a whole wave of attacks which will not stop until it is stopped.
These attacks and hence these struggles will continue to happen more
and more often until they win a decisive victory and force back this
ii) We are also subject to the management imposing these attacks. The
rent we pay in halls, the fees people are now being forced to pay (and
which Grant is campaigning to raise to at least £10,000), the use we
are allowed to make of our campus buildings, the investments UCL makes
in arms companies – in all of these things what is clear is our
powerlessness. Liberal wheeling won't help, Grant's too canny for
that. What can change things is a real defeat for management, and the
development of solidarity with our lecturers, the building of the
strength of the managed.
iii) Just as we are subject to management, so are the cleaners and
caterers nominally outsourced in recent years. If we want to have the
slightest hope of supporting them in their struggle for a living wage
(ongoing at SOAS and LSE, as yet dormant here) success in this theatre
would set us up very well indeed.
iv) Finally, perhaps a few of us are considering a career in academia.
UCL is, as has been mentioned, in the forefront of university reforms
which are causing department closures (physics at Reading, chemistry
at Sussex, Portugese at Cambridge), leading stringent attacks against
the conditions of workers and more and more subordinating research to
the interests of capital and the state. Success at UCL means the
pursuit of those projects everywhere; defeat for UCL could stop it in
What can we do?
Above all, we can voice our support for our teachers. In the first
stage of struggle it is crucial that students do this, or management
will use us as a stick to beat the strikers with. In contrast a
strongly committed student body will encourage staff to come out,
since it makes the struggle a great deal more winnable. This extends
to joining them on picket lines during any strike. 5 people is a
tragic, demoralising sight: 20 on every door is an imposing assertion
Furthermore, the organisation of sit-ins and demonstrations has proven
an extremely effective mechanism in the past for politically
embarassing an intransigent management. There are more effective modes
of struggle, too – but they are a little way off yet.
Who are you?
We are UCL students supportive of industrial action in the university
for many of the above reasons, seeking to build networks between
students and staff for effective struggle against reforms we see as
pernicious. We are in the process of setting up a staff-student action
committee. In the meantime we can be contacted at an old email address
: studentsagainststudentsucl at gmail.com.
Cheers for your attention.