The MSF is intervening in rent strikes up and down the country. On the ground, we have been supporting and building for the strikes wholeheartedly. We have been raising our own demands (which can be found here) and argued for the strikes to be connected with the wider fight for free education. Read about some local struggles below.
UAL rent strike report
UAL’s rent strike kicked off on the 4th of January with over 400 students withholding over £900,000 in rent for the term. Students have been expected to pay extortionate rent prices for accommodation which they are unable to live in, as well as paying to use common areas and workshop spaces which have been closed due to the pandemic. The university thought that these issues would go unnoticed, however
UAL students are beginning to organise and fight back.
- A reduction of 30% in rent
- No staff redundancies
- Better mental health support for students in UAL halls
- Retraining of UAL halls and IQ staff in mental health support
- Full access to workshop spaces
- No repercussions for rent strikers
As well as a lack of access to facilities, poor living conditions such as mouse infestations, broken windows, long periods without running water, and falling ceilings have pushed students to taking action against UAL.
Now, the university have offered a measly rebate to students who are unable to access halls during lockdown, but only if they are up to date with rent payments. This blatant attempt to divide rent strikers and squash the movement will not be ignored.
We have hosted an online meeting with other rent strikers to keep them up to date and inform them of any developments, and plan to host an online rally soon with speakers from representatives at other universities to inspire strikers and encourage them to continue fighting the university with militancy.
Last Friday, the strike organisers and student union representatives met with the university’s dean to discuss the demands. The meeting made it clear that UAL students must continue to put pressure on the university to meet the demands. We need mass direct action to fight back against profiteering student landlords, and a system to make sure that students in the future will be able to have a say.
Next, we hope to reach out to the union branches on campus for solidarity with the strike, and the strike organisers have been looking into future plans for a potential occupation. We have also been involved with the National Rent Strike Network, which aims to connect striking groups on a national scale to fight against the marketisation of education.
If you are a student at UAL, please get in contact with email@example.com to get involved!
KCL rent strike report
Inspired with the rise of the national rent strikes sweeping in and pressed with the frustration that came with approaching the estate to raise simple issues at accommodation, one of our comrades, with the help of Socialist Appeal and the Marx Soc at KCL, started a campaign for the rent strike on the 1st of Jan, on New Year’s. Following the set up of the social media pages, it gained he traction by reaching 300 followers in just two days with multiple individuals coming forwards to help organise the strike.
The first strike was meeting with the organisers to discuss the course of action; and this was met with huge success, as the page gained 800 followers in total by the end of the week and garnered the attention of multiple other local and national news outlets. Comrades then set up an anonymous google form where students could lodge complaints about the horrors at their halls. These ranged from abysmal living conditions such as bed bugs, silverfish, mould, poor ventilation, lifts often not working, no adherence to fire safety regulations, heaters not working in multiple flats etc. In addition, once the complaints started flowing in, reports of racial profiling, lack of disability and mental health support services emerged. A full document stating these complaints was complied into a document and demands set as follows:
- A 30% rent reduction for the whole year for all students irrespective of residence status
- To offer all students a no- penalty early release clause for both, current and coming academic year.
- A total review of standards of living at all KCL and affiliated halls of residence,
- A re-evaluation of inefficient maintenance and Security system and to include disability and mental health and diversity issues for security staff.
- End of all evictions for the duration of the Covid-19 crisis, not just slowdown the eviction process
- Better provisions for students with mental and physical illness as well as support for students isolating as a result of COVID-19.
- No repercussions, legal or academic for strikers.
A petition form has been set up which discusses our reason for striking, our demands, and has garnered 219 strikers for the third term of payment instalment; with us withholding ₤600,000. We have sent in emails to the estate demanding a meeting with them; however, they have remained unresponsive, but we are constantly emailing them to get a response. We have received some staff solidarity to our cause which is indeed encouraging. The student union has been indifferent to our cause so far, however, a meeting has been arranged for the end of the week to further discuss our demands. We have set up an open forum with a few comrades from Manchester and Brunel to speak at the event and to answer any questions that strikers may have. Canvassing and leafleting to start by the end of next week with hopes that it will garner additional strikers.
Is your Marxist society involved with a rent strike? Let us know! Please send reports to firstname.lastname@example.org to be published on our website.
Sign our petition in support of the MSF’s demands here: