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A rally in support of striking staff took place on Wednesday the 7th in an effort to pressure University leadership to “come to the negotiating table”, coming as Oxford University became the latest institution to reverse its position on pension reform.
Between 40 and 50 people attended the main body of the demonstration, with more observing from the periphery. Alongside ukulele renditions of “There’s power in a union” and “Whisky in a Jar”, various chants broke out:
“One two three four, we want pensions when we’re old. Five six seven eight, Mark E. Smith negotiate!/ They say marketise, we say organise!/Students and workers unite!”
Candidates for the ongoing Student Union elections gave speeches attacking the alleged inaction of the current Union officers, who voted to adopt a position of “supportive communication” at the start of the strikes.
University chief executive Mark E. Smith was lambasted over his “300,000+ pay and 36,000 pay rise”, and speakers cited elements of SCAN’s recent interview with the Vice Chancellor on his use of business-class flights. One cry of “Who thinks Mark E. Smith is a bellend?” was greeted with cheers from a majority of the crowd.
An open letter was handed to the Deputy Vice Chancellor Andrew Atherton towards the end of the protest, which carried the signatures of over 800 students in support of the industrial action.
Nationally, Oxford has become the latest University to back down on its support for a lower risk pensions scheme, coming after SCAN confirmed that its constituent colleges were given the same weighting as other universities in the consultation process that led to the dispute.
In a heated showdown, Oxford Vice-Chancellor Louise Richardson deployed a technicality to suspend debate on a proposal to reverse the institution’s support of pension reform, but after large-scale protests she announced that the University would be changing its position.
Today has been the eighth day of strike action, in one of the largest industrial disputes ever seen on campus.