Official Statement

The occupation of the University of Sheffield is a peaceful and non-violent protest – we stand in solidarity with the trade unions and the millions of public sector workers who went on strike today in protest against the decimation of their pensions, and against the austerity agenda of the ConDem government. We believe that the trade union movement must link up with workers in the private sector in order to defeat all cuts: we call on the TUC to set dates for further strike action as soon as possible in 2012.

We do not seek to disrupt lectures! We call upon all lecturers and students to continue to go to their lectures as normal, regardless of other arrangement made by University authorities, since our presence seeks to facilitate education and engagement with students.

Students from the Universities of Sheffield and Sheffield Hallam are particularly aware of the attacks made on their own lecturers and the support staff at the Universities, and the occupation is in full and vocal support to the legitimate grievances of the staff of the Universities’ staff. Any further industrial action which the staff of the Universities take will receive full support from the occupation.

Students and workers share a common cause – we are both having our futures denied to us. Both public and private sector workers are seeing dramatic cuts made in their pensions; youth unemployment is now officially over one million, and graduate employment currently stands at 19%. Furthermore, cuts are already impacting the quality of our education: some departments have had their teaching budget slashed by 80%. We fully oppose all cuts and job losses in education, since they will impact both workers and students.

The tuition fee increases, pushed through Parliament at the end of last year, represent another step towards the commodication and privatisation of our education, the access to which will in future be decided on the ability to pay tuition fees rather than the ability of the student. The shifting of the burden of fees from the taxpayer to the individual will further increase the drive for our Universities to court morally bankrupt companies such as BAE, Thales and other arms dealers for funding. University tuition fees are an affront to the fundamental human right of free access to education.

This occupation seeks to create a viable alternative to the cuts agenda of all of the main political parties – working people, students, the unemployed, the elderly and the disabled are not responsible for the financial crisis, and therefore we should not pay for the crisis caused by the gambling financial aristocracy. We therefore fully support demands for the reclamation of the £120bn avoided in tax every year by the rich, by closing tax loopholes and hiring more tax collectors to plug the huge tax gap which makes up 85% of Britain’s budget deficit.

Finally, the democratic right to protest is being eroded by a series of politically motivated arrests and prosecutions such as that of the 109 activists mass-arrested at the peaceful Fortnum and Mason sit-in on March 26th. We believe that these arrests and prosecutions, along with the increasingly authoritarian measures authorised for use by police, are clearly designed to intimidate protesters with legitimate grievances and tactics, and we condemn these developments in the strongest terms.

Therefore, Sheffield Occupation demand:

· We demand the implementation of a living wage for all university staff, including support staff and bank workers, of at least £7.20 per hour in accordance with the Living Wage Campaign.

· We demand that the Universities make all rooms fully accessible

· We demand that Sheffield Vice Chancellors take a pay cut before other staff who are already on low pay rates. 

· We demand that the Universities publish a report on how the cuts will be implemented and what their effect will be on each department.

· Give Teaching Assistants a contract and end the casualisation of academic labour.

· We demand a No Confidence vote in David Willets and the Education White Paper be brought to University Senate.

· We demand that both Student Unions become more active in campaigns to defend the right to education, bearing in mind the overwhelming mandate for this expressed at last month’s student union elections. The SU letter, demand it to be more forceful.

· We demand an anti-sexism policy across campuses and that this policy be enforced.

· We demand a written undertaking that the Universities will stop all involvement with arms companies such as BAE systems within the next five years.

· We demand that the University does not victimise anyone involved in the Occupation or any other anti-cuts activism.

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