The Campaign previously held a strike in November 2020Louis Ashworth/VARSITY

Rent Strike Cambridge (RSC) announced this morning (26/04) that students of at least 10 Cambridge colleges plan to rent strike this term.

The planned strikes involve students at Sidney Sussex, Newnham, Lucy Cavendish, Clare, Girton, Peterhouse, Murray Edwards, Kings, Robinson and Jesus. Homerton College was also listed as potentially being involved in the plans.

Laura Hone, a member of the Rent Strike campaign, told Varsity that the primary reason for striking this term is that the campaign believes colleges are threatening redundancies towards staff. She noted concerns within Rent Strike Cambridge that Jesus College may lay off several staff. She also criticised college treatment of students during the pandemic, noting rent and food package charges during quarantine periods.

The demands of the strike, as told to Varsity, will include a call for colleges to implement a 30% rent reduction for the 2020/21 academic year, which is the same demand as their strike in November 2020. They will also be asking for a permanent rent reduction of 10% across all colleges. Hone said that the campaign plans to demand a full refund of rent to students who were charged whilst not resident in college during Michaelmas term.

The announcement included guidance for students on ‘how to NOT pay your rent’. These resources included instructions for students to withhold manual rent payments or cancel automatic bank transfer payments to their college.

The social media information details that the rent the strikers would typically pay to their college will instead be placed in an ‘escrow account’ which they say is backed by the Cambridge SU. Escrow accounts are used as a third party placement of funds while parties directly involved in the transaction wait for both sides to fulfil their obligations.

This announcement comes after students launched a rent strike in November 2020, which demanded a 30% reduction in rent and guarantees that there would not be COVID-19 job cuts.

While the rent strike suspended their action last term, rent strike campaigns at Robinson, Peterhouse, Newnham, and Clare all released open letters criticising college rent policies in March this year.

In response to comments that Jesus College is offering some staff voluntary redundancy, a spokesperson for the College stated: “Jesus College has faced an unprecedented reduction in income since the beginning of the pandemic and the biggest financial and operational challenge in its recent history.”

They added: “As a charity, the College has a duty to manage its resources prudently and to use its endowment to support its charitable aims of education, learning, research and religion. For over a year we have worked to reduce our costs across the whole College, including only replacing essential roles when people have left. We made use of the furlough scheme and chose to top up salaries so that we paid all our furloughed staff 100%, including casual staff who we expected to engage during 2020.”

They continued: “We have held off for as long as possible before taking any further action but it has now become clear that we should not expect a return to pre-pandemic income levels in the medium term. At this stage, we are offering a generous voluntary redundancy package to all operational staff members, which is 50% higher than the statutory minimum.”