HE

Training Organisers in the Education Industry

In preparation for the upcoming June 30th strike, yesterday saw the North London Solidarity Federation host an organiser training specifically designed for workers and students in the education industry.

Coming out of a public meeting hosted by NLSF last month, militant education workers and radical students opted to have a training geared toward their specific issues. For SF it was the first time we attempted to tailor our training for students and all agreed it was a success. While the issues varied from participant to participant—from making sure June 30th is a success to planning occupations—everyone left the training with an increased sense of confidence and strategy to take back to their schools on Monday morning.

All out for June 30th! - report back on the public meeting

Last night, Saturday the 21st of May, saw upwards of thirty people attend a public meeting on the upcoming June 30th education and civil service strikes. Hosted by the North London Solidarity Federation, the meeting was very practically focused. Attendees talked about their particular workplace or uni situation and highlighted strategies and tactics which have helped them to organize at work and/or begin talking to their co-workers or fellow students about June 30th and why they shouldn't cross picket lines. We discussed what sorts of momentum-building actions could be undertaken in the run-up to June 30th that will ensure education workers and students are not only aware of the issues but feel empowered and confident enough take strike action.

On the university picket lines

Today, Liverpool Solidarity Federation visited the UCU picket lines in Liverpool City Centre to show our support for those coming out on strike.

Whereas Tuesday's strike had been over attacks on pensions, today's was in protest at the threats to members' jobs. An 80% cut in teaching budgets from the government means that 40,000 jobs are at risk. This represents not only an attack on jobs but also on the education sector as a whole, as pickets were keen to stress when they handed leaflets to students urging them not to attend lectures.

One picket on Brownlow Hill told us that the area was a lot quieter than it would normally be first thing in the morning. There had been good support from UCU members, however by the same token the density of non-union members amongst the staff meant that there were still people going in to teach.

Student protests: the angry, not the anarchists

On November 10th, the National Union of Students (NUS) and Universities and Colleges Union  (UCU) organised a demonstration against cuts in education, which ended in an occupation of Tory offices at Millbank, with smashed windows and arrests. Two weeks later, tens of thousands of students marched in towns across the country, taking over roads and buildings and scuffling with police. The Solidarity Federation, which puts out Catalyst, has been one of the groups suggested in the press as the ringleaders of the trouble. Not only do we refute this, we call for more direct action against the cuts.

Actions speak louder

October 20th saw the unveiling of the long-awaited Comprehensive Spending Review (CSR), the coalition government’s detailed blueprint for attacking jobs and services. Little within the CSR was a surprise, with cuts roughly at the level that had been predicted in the run up. It is significant that the the scale was below the 40% that had been mooted, this was a blatant attempt to ‘soften us up’ and feel lucky the cuts were “only” 20%, as if it had been taken straight out of the pages of ‘Negotiation for Dummies’.

Education, education, education

Higher Education faces significant changes in the coming years as universities move to a market based model. Tuition and top-up fees are perhaps the more visible signs of this but many institutions are now seeing changes which, among other things, significantly affect education workers’ terms and conditions. Union responses so far have seen conferences like NUS’s (National Union of Students) ‘Reclaim the Campus’ and UCU’s ‘Challenging the market in education’ (University and College Union)

Dirty dealings at the LSE

At the London School of Economics the cleaning contract is held by ISS, a multinational with lots of privatised cleaning contracts, including the London Underground. The cleaners are mainly Latin American with poor English and a fear of joining a union or speaking out about their lousy pay and conditions.

As a result of a campaign by Justice for Cleaners, the LSE has adopted the London Living Wage which is higher than the National Minimum Wage. However, it was phased in over three years of the new cleaning contract.

Worse, the workers are paying for it. They are currently paid £6 per hour but staffing has been cut and they have to work harder. This has affected standards of cleaning - management blame the new contract for mice in the Library.

Strikes off, cuts on at universities

The academics’ union UCU at the University of Sussex cancelled industrial action planned for late June after university bosses declared they were “hopeful” they could avoid any compulsory redundancies.

It soon emerged however that compulsory redundancies had been transformed into ‘voluntary’ ones and the number of job losses remained at over 100, with a similarly severe impact on many courses and workloads expected.

One student mocked the management statement: “We are pleased to announce that the 100 have jumped, and were not pushed. The knives to their backs were unrelated.” A lecturer also commented that “I, among many, have been made ‘voluntarily’ redundant, after being selected for compulsory redundancy. The University seems to have got rid of everyone it wanted by forcing us to accept a ‘voluntary’ settlement.”

Education workers: Stop the Cuts at Sussex uni

Leaflet we wrote after 115 redundancies were announced at Sussex university, where several of our members work or study.

Our Jobs under threat

Defending Ourselves Against Cuts

Across the country, education is under attack. In the past month, job losses have been announced in many places, including 200 at the University of Cumbria, 130 in Manchester MMU, £35m cuts at Leeds university, and of course 116 redundancies at Sussex. Politicians from all parties are united in wanting to make ordinary people pay the costs of capitalism in crisis, and they are starting with higher education.