YouthStrike4Climate organised a similar school strike across the UK in February of this yearJIAWEI PENG

Cambridge will support all staff members participating in a 30-minute work stoppage on 20th September as part of the Global Strike for Climate, according to an email sent to Cambridge staff earlier this week by the University’s Director of Human Resources, Emma Stone.

The email invited staff to take part in the stoppage “at lunchtime”, but noted that if this is not possible, staff should “feel free to take a break at a different time of day”.

As part of the Global Strike for Climate’s week of action, running from 20th September to 27th September, the University and College Union (UCU) has called on all Trades Union Congress (TUC) affiliate unions, student unions, and local community groups to support a 30-minute work stoppage on the 20th, in solidarity with the protest. Led by climate activist Greta Thunberg, student organisers of the protest have also encouraged workers to join the school students’ strike on that day.

In full: Email sent to Cambridge staff on Global Strike for Climate work-stoppage

Dear colleague

You may have heard about the international Global Climate Strike week that will run from 20-27 September 2019. To show solidarity with these events, and to raise awareness of the singular threat posed by climate change, UCU and other trades unions are encouraging their members to take part in a 30-minute work-day stoppage on 20 September.

The University supports any member of staff who wishes to take a break from work to participate in this stoppage. We invite staff to do this at lunchtime but recognise this may not be possible for everyone. If you cannot participate, please feel free to take a break at a different time of the day. UCU has suggested that staff take off 30 minutes. We recognise that this may make it difficult for people to take part meaningfully in events on the day. If you would like to take a longer break – that does not impact on your day-to-day responsibilities – please ask your line manager, if appropriate, and let them know how long you would like to be away from your place of work. Line managers are asked to accept reasonable requests.

The arrangements above relate to the events on 20 September 2019 only.

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Recognising that a 30-minute break “may make it difficult for people to take part meaningfully in events on the day”, Stone informed staff that they can request a longer break from managers if it “does not impact on [their] day-to-day responsibilities”. This is more flexible position than that taken by University College London, which told staff that longer breaks for the global strike for climate must either be during lunchtime, or subtracted from annual leave.

The University’s recognition of the protest via email follows an open letter signed by Cambridge staff, students, residents, and others, calling on Vice Chancellor Stephen Toope to support the week of protest. When the email was sent to staff, the open letter had more than 300 signatures. It currently has over 500, as well as endorsements from local organisations including CUSU and the Graduate Union, Cambridge Zero Carbon, and Cambridge Defend Education.

Dr Jason Scott-Warren, a member of University Council, commented: “It’s great […] that the University of Cambridge has agreed to support the Global Strike for Climate. I hope that academics will take to the streets to demand immediate action to avert climate collapse.”

The Cambridge branch of UCU, which authored the open letter, similarly welcomed the University’s support. Green Officer Rasha Rezk commented, “staff and students in Cambridge are sending a clear message about the importance of fighting the climate crisis and building a stronger and greener economy. The university should be at the forefront of that campaign and we welcome its support. Climate change is an education and trade union issue, and as the most important issue facing the planet we must all do everything we can to tackle it.”


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In a press release, pro-divestment student activist group Cambridge Zero Carbon pushed Cambridge to take “meaningful action”, commenting, “in the midst of a climate crisis out of control, the support for staff striking for climate is not enough when the University refuses to break with a long history of green-washing the fossil fuel industry [sic] reputation through investments and research partnerships.”

On Friday morning, the Cambridge Schools Eco-Council, an activist organisation of school students set up earlier this year to address the climate crisis, will also have a die-in on King’s Parade, similar to a protest organised by the group in April as part of the YouthStrike4Climate.

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