CUSU/GU OfficesLouis Ashworth

In the first CUSU Council meeting this academic year on Monday, members voted 36 to 3 in favour of supporting the University and College Union (UCU) ballots demanding higher pay and rejecting an increase in pension contributions.

Members of Cambridge UCU are currently being encouraged to vote in favour of industrial action on the two ballots, with voting closing on October 30th.

The CUSU motion cited the “strong student support” for previous strikes in Lent term 2018. CUSU had organised and participated in several rallies in solidarity with striking lecturers at the time.

The motion noted the obligation of the council to university staff that were also students. It stated that many of the issues at stake in the dispute disproportionately affect postgraduate research students, who are CUSU/GU members.

The vote will ensure CUSU and GU lobby the university to meet UCU’s demands, and if the ballots are successful, they will encourage students to avoid crossing picket lines to attend their lectures whilst making “provisions to mitigate the impact of disruption on CUSU members”.

It also allocated £250 of the Council Free Budget to “actions in support of these ballots and industrial action” such as informative flyers and posters.

The vote is in keeping with the Memorandum of Understanding adopted by the CUSU/GU in October 2018, as the council unanimously voted on the agreement to support the interests of UCU. It stated, “staff working conditions are the conditions in which students learn.”

“A university education is a collaborative relationship between staff and students and each benefits from the advancement of the other’s interest.”

In the meeting, debate over the motion revolved around the potential impact on student welfare and the importance of students showing solidarity with striking staff, and an amendment attempting to replace expressing support for the strike with a more pointed focus on ensuring student welfare failed.

A last minute amendment to the motion proposed by CUSU President, Edward Parker Humphreys will also see CUSU promoting UCU reporting mechanisms for “raising concerns about behaviour on picket lines”.


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In February of last year, students spoke to Varsity about their inner conflicts on whether to cross the picket line, a decision especially difficult for students with certain disabilities, international students paying high tuition fees, and sciences students with many contact hours and mandatory lab sessions.

During the Lent 2018 staff strikes, CUSU Council faced criticism for delaying its vote on whether to support calls for Cambridge to refund students for lost lecture hours. The motion to support refunds to students was eventually defeated in Easter term 2018. The motion which passed on Monday night made no mention of refunds.