Students occupy Ziff building to protest treatment of staff and students

“The students are angry. The staff is angry. And to the surprise of senior management, we stand together’

On the morning of Monday May 23, a group of students occupied the council chamber in the Marjorie and Arnold Ziff building on the University of Leeds campus, protesting the treatment of staff and students.

They had access to the council chamber and obtained a meeting with the vice-chancellor, Simone Buitendijk, within 20 minutes of occupying the hall.

Occupiers told The Leeds Tab they had been trying to meet Buitendijk for over a year.

The occupants have two demands:

  1. No payroll deductions for staff participating in the tagging boycott
  2. Vice-Chancellor pledges to resolve differences between UCU Leeds and Unison with public statement backing their demands

Many university staff are currently participating in the grading boycott in a fight for equality and fair play and for change regarding job insecurity and workload.

This campaign was called “The Four Battles”. University management responded to the grading boycott with a 100% pay cut for all participating staff.

It was this pay cut that prompted students to occupy the Ziff building, in a movement they called #TakingTheZiff, and to fight the university’s treatment of students and staff.

According to the University of Leeds Unison, the vice-chancellor refused to meet with them and did not respond to their written concern.

Their members have not seen a salary increase for 12 years and many now rely on food banks for a living.

Students and staff rallied in front of the “wavy bacon” statue on campus in solidarity with the occupants.

Several shared their own personal experiences, including a postgraduate researcher at the university, the co-precariousness officer at UCU Leeds, the president of Unison at the university, a former occupant of 2010 and a representative of UCU pensions.

In a compelling speech, Joanne, the university’s co-precariousness officer, said: ‘Students deserve to be taught by staff who know they will have secure employment for the next few weeks, months, years’

Joanne said: “The students are angry. The staff is angry. And to the surprise of senior management, we stand together.

A member of rally staff said: “For about five or six years I had a zero hour temp contract and it was horrible, I had no job security and every summer I was unemployed “, saying the university had done “very little” to address these issues.

A university student said: “It is very easy for students to blame their teachers and tutors for the corrections strike, but the problem is deeply rooted in a university where the only people who benefit are those who are at the top”.

The occupants intend to occupy the Ziff building until “disputes are resolved” and the occupants are updating regularly via social media.

A spokesperson for the University of Leeds said: ‘It is deeply regrettable that our community is one of only 20 out of approximately 150 nationwide to be subject to this grading and assessment boycott. . We have already made a series of commitments to address some of the issues at the heart of this industrial action, including reducing the use of short-term contracts.

“Our priorities remain to protect the interests of students, including minimizing any disruption to them; maintain the cohesion of our community; and to protect the Leeds degree standard.

“The University will consider participation in a grading/assessment boycott as partial performance, resulting in salary deductions of up to 100% due to breach of contract, although staff notify us in advance of his involvement to help us mitigate the impact, we will deduct 50 percent.

The rally will resume every day at 5 p.m. in front of the “wavy bacon” statue.

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