Student activists escalate action on fourth day of strikesCambridge Defend Education

Earlier today, Cambridge Defend Education (CDE) led a rally onto the Senate House lawn and outside Old Schools, where the Vice-Chancellor and other senior management figures in the University are based, in support of the University and College Union’s (UCU) strike action this week.

Students danced to music while carrying banners, including one which read “Strike 4 Climate Justice”, and waved red smoke flares. Once under the arches of Senate House, students chanted “This is what democracy looks like!”, as well as shouting chants specific to the migrant justice theme, such as “No borders! No nations! Stop Deportations!”

Strike action started last Thursday and has seen increasing student interaction, including a rally on Monday at which students launched 475 paper planes, made from printed money notes with the face of Vice-Chancellor Stephen Toope on them, onto Senate House lawn in critique of Toope’s annual salary of £475,000.

CDE also blockaded Old Schools on Friday, with over 40 students participating, who said they “were disrupting the university’s functioning and forcing acknowledgment of the industrial dispute to which there has been no public response.”

CDE has pledged “to escalate action” in the lead up to an open meeting with Stephen Toope on Thursday and until UCU’s three demands are met. UCU is asking the University to officially recognise their union, to give a public statement calling on UUK and the Universities and Colleges Employers’ Association (UCEA) for a new pensions offer, and to hold an open meeting.


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The student activists have added a further two demands to those of UCU, first that “there should be no attendance monitoring of any kind during the strike period, to ensure migrant students and workers can participate in strike action” and secondly, that “there should be no disciplinary action against students or staff for action in support of the strike.”

CDE said: “on Thursday we’ll be demanding Toope meets the demands of UCU and CDE. His silence has been deafening; despite their supposed commitment to “openness” and “democracy”, University management have met these demands with complete silence.”

In support of striking staff, CDE made and distributed more than 100 pancakes to workers on the picket lines this morning. Members of CDE rang the door phone of Old Schools, but told Varsity that “Stephen Toope did not respond to an invite to come out for a pancake and a chat about why he hasn’t met, or even responded to, the demands of UCU and CDE.”

A UCU spokesperson commented: “I’m thrilled with the student-staff solidarity shown, and grateful that CDE has continued their unwavering support for staff, particularly those in precarious conditions due to visa restrictions and temporary contracts”.

These actions come on the fourth day of 14 days strike action pressuring for resolutions to the USS pensions dispute and ‘four fights’ of overwork, casualisation, low-pay and equality pay gaps.

Varsity has contacted the University for comment.