Rent strike continues as students and lecturers demonstrate outside London universities

Goldsmiths College, at centre of rent strike. Image: Mariana Des Forges

Goldsmiths College, at centre of rent strike. Image: Mariana Des Forges

The past two days have seen the latest action in the student rent strike.

Students and lecturers have drawn a picket line in front of Goldsmiths College library and UCL.

This has been a double protest over pay for higher educators as well as against high rent prices and inadequate housing for students.

The national strike days organised by the University College Union (UCU) have seen many academics at both Goldsmiths College and University College London cancel teaching, administration and office hours.

They’ve also joined the students in the ‘Cut The Rent’ demonstration.

Goldsmiths College Cut The Rent Twitter Page @cuttherent

Today’s Strike

The Goldsmiths UCU website has said the strike action that  is taking place today has a focus on lecturers’ demands for better pay and is part of the bigger higher education protest.

The union argues ‘lecturer’s working conditions are student’s learning conditions’ and therefore impacts on the quality of higher education.

In an open letter to Goldsmiths Students, the UCU outlined their demands of today and yesterday’s strike action:

  • end the shocking gender pay gap in the profession. Women working as academics earn much less than their male counterparts.
  • Nationally in Higher Education, the pay gap is 12.6%
  • greatly reduce the proportion of staff on insecure contracts and zero hours contracts.
  • 75,000 members of university staff nationally are on these sorts of contracts.
  • a pay raise of 5% to begin to make up for the erosion of lecturers’ pay by inflation.
  • Academics’ pay has fallen by 14.5% in real terms since 2009.
  • The union says ‘Imagine what you’d do with a 14.5% cut in your loan or your own wages?’
  • ‘Imagine what friends or family who are working would say to a 14.5% cut?’
  • The UCU says: ‘We’re not asking for a real terms raise, just one that keeps pace with the rising cost of living.’

    Cut The Rent posters on Goldsmiths Campus. Image: Mariana Des Forges

    Cut The Rent posters on Goldsmiths Campus. Image: Mariana Des Forges

This strike comes in the midst of exam period for most students at the London institutions.

But the President of Goldsmiths Student Union, Daniel Nasr, sent an email informing students that their examinations would not be affected by the protests.

He said that ‘tutors and lecturers know the importance of these exams and the industrial action will not infringe on the ability to take them’.

He went on to explain why Goldsmiths is taking such an active role in the overall ‘Cut The Rent’ strike:

Goldsmiths Students’ Union has a proud tradition of standing in solidarity with those who seek justice and has previously supported  members of staff within the Goldsmiths community. Furthermore, the Students’ Union is against the current and increasing pay gap between the front line staff and those in senior positions. As members of the college community, the SU wishes to send a strong message that we believe in justice for all.

Goldsmiths College Cut The Rent Promotional Poster on facebook

Goldsmiths College Cut The Rent Promotional Poster on Facebook

What is ‘Cut The Rent’?

Students in London are withholding their third semester rent payments in protest against “soaring” accommodation prices, and are demanding a 40% cut in rental.

Students from UCL refused to pay £250,000 in rent, while 200 students from Goldsmiths College pledged not to on the payment deadline at the beginning of May.

Campaigners say that rents at the university have risen by around 56% since 2009.

Joe is an organizer of Goldsmiths College’s ‘Cut The Rent’ movement, he explains what it is and how students across the capital are protesting high rent strikes.

He said the protest is not just about demonstrations.

He says there’s a social element to it: ‘to consolidate solidarity between students against universities, private housing sectors and the Government.’

He describes social events organised by campaigners to raise awareness and how students can find more information about the strike action.

 Response from Institutions

Student renters won their first victory last week as they succeeded in getting UCL to pay £75,000 in compensation for disruption caused by building work.

The UCL, Cut the Rent (UCL CTR) campaign group said on Monday the residents of Campbell House West received the sum – 20 per cent of the annual rent – bringing the total amount of compensation awarded to students to almost £500,000 since the beginning of 2015.

Despite the summer term coming swiftly to a close, Joe says the the strike will not end when the semester does.

He says it will continue through the summer and into the next academic year.

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