By Guy Howie, UCLU Marxists
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Higher Education workers across the country will be involved in a day of strike action on Thursday 31st October - and students across the country must support it.

The two largest unions in the country Unite and UNISON announced the date of the strike, which will be the first nationwide joint action over education in the country’s history, along with University and College Union two weeks ago. The reason for the action is a minimal 1% unadjusted wage rise for workers, equating to a 13% real-wage pay cut overall since 2008; this, as we have seen huge increases in living costs during that time, especially in the urban areas where most Higher Education workers live. Meanwhile, in August the Universities Minister David Willetts “welcomed” an increase in the number of HE institutions - fundamentally public, non-profit organisations - turning a profit.

Students who took part in the movement against attacks on their universities in 2010 realised that they were fighting for more than lower fees. Since then higher fees have done nothing to improve the quality of education, which was being hit even before with cuts to lecturers’ pay and departmental funding. In addition, university workers on low-end pay have suffered below the cost of living just as prices on campus - in UCL’s own cafeteria, for example - comfortably rival the costlier end of the high street. 

From the very beginning of the current financial crisis politicians and big business will have seen Higher Education as an easy target, seemingly removed from the bulk of the national workforce and open to private interference. But education is the cornerstone of a society that works - a health service that works, skilled labour that is properly utilised, productive forces being developed. We bring about progressive change in the world on the basis of understanding it.

Two thirds of the UCU and Unite members directly victimised by attacks on education not only agree that present university policy is “undermining the real basis of quality education for students” but have voted that it warrants strike action. Strike action, by the largest numbers in the history of British education. These are the lecturers who teach us and the staff who keep our campuses going; their mandate indicates the extreme situation we find ourselves in. The severe degree to which our education is being undermined reflects a society which isn’t working: the Capitalist system has broken down.

With this in mind students must stand in solidarity with lecturers and staff on 31st October. Missing a day of lectures to support those fighting on your behalf as well as their own for a better education system is a small sacrifice to make. Only if HE workers receive mass student backing can the firm ground of government-backed university management and big business really be shaken. But if we unite our own cause with that of the whole working class we can achieve an education free from pay-cuts and debts: an education through Socialism. For our part, the UCLU Marxist Society will be there on the picket line this Thursday, so come and join us!
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