Today, Socialist Party members at Queen’s University have submitted a petition to the Students’ Union with the necessary number of signatures to trigger a referendum on whether students should strike against austerity alongside staff. The referendum is provisionally expected to take place on Thursday 26th February with the potential strike on Friday 13th March.
The question posed to students will be as follows:
“Queen’s University Belfast Students’ Union should strike on Friday 13th March to coincide with strike action planned by the trade union movement. This strike should be part of a sustained campaign against cuts to university funding and austerity, outlined in the Assembly Budget and Stormont House Agreement, and implemented by all the Assembly Executive parties. Agree? (Yes or No)”
Speaking after submitting the petition, QUB Socialist Society Chairperson Eóin Dawson said:
“The austerity agenda agreed by the Assembly Executive parties in the Stormont House Agreement and the budget will see funding for further and higher education cut by at least 10.8% across the board. The University of Ulster’s plans to scrap 50 courses are an indication of how deep the impact of the cuts will be. Thousands of places and hundreds of jobs will be destroyed. While the politicians often complain of a ‘brain drain’ from Northern Ireland, their policies will force thousands of talented young people abroad to get access to education.”
“It’s not just education cuts which will impact on students’ futures. The Stormont politicians’ Thatcherite plan to wipe out 20,000 public sector jobs will mean those positions are no longer there for young people upon graduation. The neo-liberal policies of the Assembly Executive will create an economy dominated by low-paid, precarious jobs with zero-hour contracts and zero rights, while public services are stripped to the bone. We’re told that there is no alternative, yet big business and the super-rich in the UK avoid paying £120 billion in tax every year while the wealth of the billionaires has quadrupled since 2008. That’s why students need to stand up and strike alongside staff on March 13th.”
“We got a really enthusiastic response from students when we were collecting the petition. People want to see a students’ movement which is willing to take action, which is about organising students to fight for change – not cosying up to right-wing politicians and engaging in sectarian bickering. I would encourage all students to join the campaign for a resounding ‘Yes’ vote on Thursday 26th. This can be the start of a united and sustained fightback by workers and students to demand the super-rich are made to pay for the crisis they’ve created, not ordinary people.”
This is not the first initiative the Socialist Party has taken to build student support for the March 13th day of action against austerity. NUS-USI Women’s Conference recently passed a motion proposed by Belfast Met Students’ Union President and Socialist Party member Courtney Robinson which fully backed the strike action and called on the students’ movement to use all its resources to get students onto the streets on the day.