UCU and Unison activists held a joint protest outside Strand Campus as part of strike action at the College. A crowd of around a hundred or so students and supporters gathered outside the main entrance to the Strand to hear speeches by campaigners.
The joint protest aimed to unite students, staff, and cleaners by focusing on the similarities between their struggles. The protest came as part of widespread strike action across College campuses. This is now the second day of strike action in what looks set to be a month long campaign.
The protest featured speeches from the Justice For Cleaners campaigners, Unison activists, and Joanna de Groot, National President of the UCU. de Groot praised the crowds for their dedication and said she was ‘so proud’ of the organisers at the College. “I want to be clear that it is the employers who bear the responsibility for the disruption that is going on at the university” de Groot stated.
Ben Hunt, former KCLSU President, also spoke out against the government’s tactics of ‘dividing students and staff’. After his speech, Hunt roused the crowd with chants of ‘students and workers, unite and fight!’
Also in attendance, Steven Saxby, the Labour Party’s Parliamentary Candidate for the Cities of London and Westminster. Saxby, who is part way through a History PhD at the College, said the current higher education system is ‘fundamentally under attack’. He urged students to support the Labour party and their plans to fix the current system.
The protest highlighted ongoing issues faced by outsourced cleaning staff at the College. Two former cleaners spoke to the crowds to express their appreciation for messages of solidarity received from students. Justice For Cleaners campaigners urged the crowd not to give up in their fight for fair treatment of cleaning staff.
There was little sympathy amongst the gathered students for senior management and Vice-Chancellor Ed Byrne was booed when mentioned. Speaking on Byrne’s expressed sympathies with the teachers struggle, one campaigner likened him to ‘a mafia boss who orders an assassination and then sends flowers to the bereaved family saying how sorry he is’.
More strike action is planned for the coming days and weeks and student solidarity and support shows little sign of wavering.