Undeterred by bad weather, students affiliated with the Oxford Activist Network demonstrated in the centre of town yesterday in support of the ongoing staff strike.
Over twenty people, including student activists from Ruskin College, stood outside Carfax Tower with banners. After a brief discussion with two police officers, the students marched down Cornmarket Street.
Their protest followed that morning’s demonstration, which was organised by the UCU, where approximately eighty academics and staff members marched through central Oxford.
Oxford Activist Network organiser Nathan Akehurst (pictured) stressed the importance of visible protest not only to staff’s real term pay cuts, but also to wider student issues. He called the turnout “a general defence of higher education”, citing “privatisation of loans and ongoing cutbacks” as urgent incentives to demonstrate.
Balliol first year Xav Cohen had arrived at the student protest after spending some time at the UCU strike. He called the mood amongst strikers “positive”, and described a noisy scene with a picket line supported by trade union members from Unison and Unite. “They were wanting to fight,” he told Cherwell.
Oxford staff members have held strikes over the past three weeks to protest cuts to real wages. University staff across the country continue to strike for similar cuts, some with significant consequences – after universities including Queen Mary, Warwick, and Oxford Brookes have docked an entire day’s pay for strikes lasting only a few hours. Two weeks ago, Oxford University deducted two hours’ pay from striking academics’ wages.
MSc student Jaskiran Chohan joined protesters on Thursday. She stated, “I firmly believe that this government’s plan for austerity is very harmful and damaging to all public services, and students should be aware of that – selling off the student debt is one example of this. I think that these issues are intrinsically linked, hence supporting staff against their pay cuts.”
However, Chohan was critical of student engagement in supporting the strike; less than half of the number who RSVPed to Thursday’s demonstration on Facebook turned out at Carfax Tower.
“I feel like there’s an institutional blanket of quietness – it’s a deliberate attempt to scare people away,” she said.