The former deputy leader of the Scottish Labour Party, Alex Rowley, visited the students occupying the Logie Lecture Theatre today.
Rowley made a speech to the students, and spoke about the erosion of worker’s rights and pay, and how the UCU strikes show an erosion in pensions, as well as his own experiences of industrial action, and that of his relatives who took part in the 1984/5 miner’s strike. Rowley said in his speech that the occupation was sending a strong message that students are standing in solidarity with their lecturers. Rowley ended his speech saying that the best way to achieve a new just and fair society is to stand together in solidarity.
Rowley spoke to Brig after his speech. He said that he was pleased to be visiting the occupation and to show solidarity with the students participating in the occupation, he said that the dispute showed that lecturers are being asked to pay the highest price when management have high levels of pay and will not suffer. He said that Universities UK (UUK) need to understand that they cannot treat people this way. Rowley also called for a peaceful resolution to the pension dispute, and said that he was proud to support the students of the Logie occupation.
Mr Rowley stayed behind to talk to some of the students participating in the occupation, discussing issues such as politics, worker’s rights, university life, and the education system, with some students sharing their own experience of these issues.
The spokesperson for the occupation said: “We are delighted to be joined by a Labour MSP and such a dedicated socialist. I think that this is a testament that this is not just about pensions, or just this particular strike, but about a wider movement.”
Alex Rowley was not the only MSP to visit the occupation today. The occupiers also received a visit from the Green Party MSP for Mid-Scotland and Fife, Mark Ruskell.
Ruskell, a former graduate of the University of Stirling, released a statement to Brig which read: “I was really heartened to meet the students occupying Logie in solidarity with the staff. It’s a brave move and I believe they are making a brilliant and necessary stand. At the end of the day the quality of university teaching starts and ends with the staff. It’s a hard demanding job working in today’s university sector and many people may sacrifice a career in the private sector to dedicate themselves to learning. It’s only right that the pension offered when they signed up to work at the university is honoured. I have written to the Principal urging him to back the demands of his staff.”
The occupation was also visited by the recently elected NUS Scotland President Liam McCabe on Thursday evening.
One of the occupiers described the visits as fantastic, saying that they appreciate the support from elected officials, praising the “great show of solidarity” from local MSPs.
Some occupiers responded to criticism that they had received today, one telling Brig: “The point of this occupation is to protect education not disrupt it, it also brings attention to the issue of the strike. I can understand the frustration that some students are feeling and I sympathise, but we are doing this to protect our education. If we do not defend our lecturer’s pension rights then our education will be worse. I don’t want to have to do this, I would rather be in lectures but this is an important cause.”
While the occupation was happening on campus, striking lecturers from Stirling took part in a University and College Union (UCU) Scotland rally in Glasgow, with lecturers from other universities.
Occupiers continue to tweet and post to Facebook to keep people updated on the occupation using #OccupyLogie. Many tweets targeted at the vice-chancellor of the university, Gerry McCormac.
This is the third day that the Logie Lecture Theatre has been under occupation, and the occupation is set to continue over the weekend and possibly into next week.