Thursday, 28 October 2010

Liar, Liar, pants on fire...

An unlikely 'hat tip' to John Gray, who campaigned to defeat me and all others on the left in the by elections. Just waiting for the results now. Shame I didn't get to vote myself as the ballot arrived too late ... but I doubt it'll be decided by just one vote. And never mind the ballots - let's get organised! Among several other events over next few weeks, I'll be at this 'Reclaim the Union' rally on 13th November. See you there?

Friday, 15 October 2010

Thanks for the inspiration

A short note to say thanks to all the supporters who’ve given some of their own time in the last three weeks campaigning for a fighting candidate to win this NEC by-election.

It’s been great going around and meeting you all, and talking about how we are going to resist the cuts – from Brighton to Birmingham, from South Bank to Banksy, the campaign really has been inspiring for me.

  • Have you seen this website after reading the election address or a leaflet?
  • Want to get involved in building a grass roots network of activists in the HE sector?
  • Want to donate to cover the costs of printing and travel?
  • Want some more postcards to hand out?

Let me know - get in touch via email, Facebook or Union Book.



Monday, 4 October 2010

Andrew Beech: I'm supporting Max Watson because...

"I'm supporting Max Watson because to me he is what every trade unionist should be: a fighter, an activist and a person who cares about his members and their fight for decent working conditions."
Andrew Beech
Liverpool John-Moore's University, Branch Secretary
Higher Education Service Group Executive member (in a personal capacity)

Sunday, 3 October 2010

Marching against Tory cuts in Birmingham

Had a great demo today in Birmingham against the Tory cuts – despite the relentless rain.

Saw dozens of UNISON branch banners and met up with HE activists from Birmingham, SOAS and Manchester Metropolitan. Heard all about their goings on as well as of course, handing out hundreds of leaflets.

The most encouraging conversation was with a UCU member carrying this beautiful banner (left), of the William Morris style. At the beginning of term time, he told me, they usually have about ten new students enrolled onto the introduction to shop stewards training course. This term they had 31 - a really good sign that people are getting involved.

The BBC reports Mark Serwotka, of the PCS, spoke about strike action to "turn the tide" against the cuts:

"Strikes are inevitable. We are stronger if we get together. Striking together will not just happen on its own. We need to plan it now. We need our union stewards meeting now in every town and every city and we've got to start planning."

If only UNISON had backed this march and our leadership were making similar calls to action...

Saturday, 2 October 2010

A new movement is born

I spoke at a ‘QMUL against the cuts’ meeting on Thursday then spent yesterday dealing with casework and my day job.

Other speakers at the meeting included from UNISON (Vik Chechi), UCU (Rick Saull) and students union reps from Queen Mary’s – good to see a united campaign between the staff and students beginning to develop there as elsewhere, though all in personal capacity and not a formally backed by their branches (yet).

Also heard from Steve White, a local FBU rep who talked about the London firefighters' dispute against shift pattern changes. Like the tube dispute, this is all about safety. The Fire Authority want to close fire stations on the night shift - this dispute could well be a flash point this winter.

Jeremy Watts, of the PCS, spoke about winning the arguments against the cuts. Their alternative to the cuts really is an excellent document with all the necessary arguments. One example: tax avoidance costs the treasury £123B a year, and yet the government are cutting staff at Inland Revenue.

Clare Solomon, of ULU, also spoke about building for the march against cuts to education. Good to have the NUS building for the march, but there will also be a ‘Free education’ feeder march from ULU which I’ll encourage my branch to join.

We had a good, familiar discussion about what to do next: how to build the campaign profile, how to engage more students and staff; to avoid alienating students (too many top table speakers /not relying on Facebook), building union membership (too few members, not enough activists), to affiliate to the Coalition of resistance (or not), and so on...

These meetings are happening all over the country and it really feels as if we're part of a new movement being born.

I hope UNISON will throw it’s weight behind building for the demo against cuts to education, as well as UCU and NUS. After all, UNISON’s position on free education is excellent:
"Access to education is a right for all, not a privilege reserved for those who can pay for it and should therefore be free for all."

I’m going up to Birmingham for the Tory party conference tomorrow. No, not as a delegate, but to join the protest… See you there?