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?

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