It is currently uncertain when the protest will end
Over 150 students have occupied the stage at the NUS National Conference in protest of the decision to move on from discussions in the ‘Welfare Zone.’
The conference has now been temporarily shut down as a result.
The welfare zone, the section of the conference dedicated to discussion about important social issues such as mental health, racism and women’s rights, was forced to be cut short by organisers as the discussion had exceeded time limitations.
In protest of this, students stormed the stage to continue discussion about the remaining social issues, such as the rights of student sex workers and abortion in Northern Ireland.
The conference was ended amid fears of “health and safety issues”, with both balcony visitors and remaining delegates on the floor being asked to vacate the premises. Debates and elections were scheduled to take place up until 8pm tonight.
Speaking to The Mancunion, John and Emily from Salford Students’ Union stated that whilst the delegates occupying the stage were “standing for a really good cause, and that people should be allowed a healthy debate about what we are going to be voting for”, it is also now “unfair” that students are “taking time out of other motions.”
Similarly, first time delegates Ahmed and Umamah from Leeds Students’ Union told The Mancunion that: “Whilst we understand why they are doing it since these are important issues in the welfare zone that have not been discussed yet, occupying the stage is not only not discussing these, but taking away from the elections. To be quite honest, it’s not democratic.”
Ahmed also stated that: “Whilst these issues are important, we already voted on the order of the motions, and everyone was aware of the fact that you could potentially only get through one issue in other sections.”
Yesterday, delegates voted to extend the guillotine (the time period allocated to certain ‘zones’) on a number of occasions. Subsequently, this time has been taken out of other zones to stick to the strict time schedule of the conference.
Currently, it is uncertain when the conference will be re-opened.
UPDATE – In a statement released at 18:30, Support Student Sex Workers have declared the outcome of the negotiations as follows:
An emergency NEC meeting for two motions on decriminalisation of abortion and sex work;
NEC will vote on welfare motions at a later NEC;
There will be no ramifications for the occupiers;
There will be a formal apology from NUS on how democracy has been badly handled this week, and a review of democracy of this conference.