From education to employment

“Our fight is your fight”: STUC General Secretary, Roz Foyer

students walking through gate

Speaking to student delegates at NUS Scotland Conference, Roz Foyer urged students to continue to support their striking academic staff, despite the disruption to many students’ courses, describing the decision to strike as “a last resort”.

Foyer touched on many issues students identified as important by students at the conference when she described academic staff’s reasons for striking as about “the future protection and investment in our education system”. Student delegates had discussed at length the importance of fighting for more investment in Scotland’s education system to improve the learning conditions of international students, apprentices, students from impoverished backgrounds and disabled students, all groups that are currently being pushed out of education due to a lack of financial support from the Scottish Government.

Foyer also personally praised NUS Scotland President, Ellie Gomersall, as a “champion of trans equality” for her work campaigning against the UK Government’s decision to block the Gender Recognition Reform (Scotland) Bill from becoming law.

Foyer’s presence at NUS Scotland Conference is part of a sustained relationship of solidarity between students and workers, with representatives from each attending each other’s rallies, picket lines, and other events.

Commenting, NUS Scotland President, Ellie Gomersall, said:

“NUS Scotland is proud to stand in solidarity with striking workers. Students are the workers of tomorrow, but we are also the workers of today. Many students work alongside their studies, in everything from hospitality to academia. NUS Scotland also represents apprentices, who are simultaneously students and workers.

“When students and workers fight together, we win. Just last week, the Scottish Government announced that as of 2023/24, all apprentices in the public sector will be guaranteed the Real Living Wage. This was the result of months of effort from students, apprentices and workers, and a huge step forward in guaranteeing a Real Living Wage for all apprentices, whose current minimum wage is only £4.81 per hour.

“I also want to express my gratitude with the STUC for their solidarity with students. Our Fighting For Students campaign has have received innumerable messages of solidarity from unions across Scotland, including significant presence at our rally in February.”

Commenting, the leadership team at the National Society of Apprentices said:

“Apprentices stand shoulder-to-shoulder with striking workers. Unionised workplaces provide apprentices with better wages, better terms and conditions, better quality of education, and improve the chances of apprentices being taken on as employees at the end of their training.

“Apprentices are unique amongst the members of NUS Scotland because the work they do is their education. However, many students are also workers, so we are also united in our fight to improve working conditions.

“The solidarity that students’ associations across Scotland have shown with striking academic staff has been inspiring. We urge students to extend this solidarity to the apprentices who are employed by your universities and colleges in admin, marketing, business and catering. Just like your academic staff, their working conditions are your learning conditions. Scotland is the only country in the UK that does not have mandatory day release, meaning that apprentices often have to sacrifice their free time to study on top of a full-time job.

“Together, we can make all universities and colleges a place where all workers, including apprentices, are paid a Real Living Wage, are employed on secure contracts, and are not expected work above and beyond their contracts.”

Commenting, STUC General Secretary Roz Foyer said:

“NUS Scotland continues to be one of the trade union movement’s closest allies during the collective fight against this cost-of-living crisis.  Uniting together in solidarity is a key foundation of our cause and I’m delighted to strengthen these bonds today at NUS Scotland Conference.

“Students are often at the cutting edge in experiencing the most outrageous workplace practices in hospitality, academia, and retail. This cannot continue and we’re standing alongside students in their fight for decency and respect.

“As such, NUS Scotland Conference is the ideal platform to come together in fighting for a just and progressive future for workers, students and all those experiencing harassment and discrimination both in and outwith the workplace. We look forward to our continued working relationship with them.”

As students from across Scotland meet today at NUS Scotland Conference in Edinburgh, President Ellie Gomersall welcomes new Cabinet Secretary for Education, Jenny Gilruth, and urges them to support their Fighting For Students campaign.

Gomersall’s message goes as follows:

“I congratulate Jenny on her appointment to Cabinet Secretary for Education.

“This is a time of turmoil for students, NUS Scotland’s latest Cost of Survival report found that 52% of students have skipped a meal because of lack of money, 11% have used a foodbank, 45% have gone without heating, 35% have been unable to pay their rent in full, and 12% of students had experienced homelessness.

“Together, we can work together to improve students’ living conditions by reintroducing the rent freeze on purpose-built student accommodation, increasing financial support for all students, including postgraduate and further education students, introduce half-price public transport for all students all day, and reintroduce government funding for essential student mental health services.

“I look forward to working constructively to improve the lives of students throughout Scotland.”

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