Archive for Cuts

No time for complacency

As many University of Kent students no doubt know, the university has moved forward with plans for compulsory redundancies amongst staff in the university’s Biosciences department. The University and Colleges Union (UCU) branch at the university voted to take action to stop the twelve members of staff losing their jobs and livelihoods.

 Biosciences course representatives were quick to establish a Facebook group to protest against the proposed redundancies in the department however, this group has since been taken over by the official Kent Union bureaucracy and much of the original fervour and angst has been diluted, turning the group into a talking shop and information site, rather than a group dedicated to taking robust, determined and forthright action against any job losses.

The group now looks complacent, only willing to discuss the situation, rather than lead with proposals to fight back against the university’s ill-advised and, frankly, crass decision, to force hard-working, committed members of staff, out of their jobs and onto the scrap heap.

Fortunately, a new group has been created to address the complacency of Kent Union official bureaucrats, ‘Student Activism against the Biosciences cuts’. The group will endeavour to put forward a plan of action against cuts and redundancies in any department at the University of Kent. It will look to other campuses, such as  the University of Sussex’s ‘Stop the Cuts- Defend Sussex’ campaign, which enjoys the healthy support of University of Sussex Student Union (USSU) officers, including Josh Jones, USSU’s  Education Officer, who has recently called on Sussex University management to take a 10% pay cut!

Students at the University of Kent need full-time officers like Josh Jones and the other USSU sabbs. Students need officers who will support and encourage grassroots, student-led activism, that won’t rule out any tools at the disposal of students to challenge unfair decisions from the university management. The student movement’s greatest strength is its sheer size in numbers, as well as the close proximity students have with one another, particularly on collegiate campuses such as Kent.

A vibrant and robust anti-cuts, anti-redundancies, pro-learning campaign is needed at the University of Kent. Students need officers who are familiar with grassroots campaigning, aware of the need to promote a culture of activism on campus and in the community, and ready to utilise the student body behind any action.

Mobilising students is no easy task; it takes time, effort and good organising skills to do so. However, what is needed, more than anything else, is engagement. It should not be a matter of students’ going to the union, but of the union going to students. There should be regular, weekly campaigns from union officers. Union officers need to be quick at recognising issues, and even quicker in responding to them.  

In short, students need activism, not complacency.

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Why the Tories have stalled

The polls are narrowing, the Tories seem unable to land a knock-out blow on the Labour spin machine, the main parties are become increasingly desperate. To borrow a phrase from Kevin Maguire, ‘Cameron’s mask is slipping’, and you know what, that’s not rhetoric, it’s true.

David Cameron’s personal popularity has fallen 9 points since 2008 and the latest Ipsos-Mori poll shows the Tory lead standing at 5% – the ‘magic’ number that keeps the Tories from becoming the largest party in Parliament after a General Election.

This week was meant to be a bruising one for Gordon Brown, he was meant to have been a broken figure, but the Rawnsley ‘revelations’ turned to dust. Then came Alistair Darling’s “forces of hell” moment, once again, this crumbled away. So, what has gone wrong in the Tory machine? Why have they stalled?

I think the answer is a simple one, very simple in fact, the answer lies in policy, or the lack of any robust policy. I know of only three things to expect from a Cameron Government: 1. a cut in corporation tax; 2. de-regulation for large parts of the economy; and, 3. a ‘free’ vote on the repeal of the Hunting Act (2004). This is all I can remember, I can’t recite anything else. Nothing sticks except for a big image of  Cameron telling us ‘I’ll cut the deficit, not the NHS’ – which is actually an homage to Tony Blair’s 1997 poster, ‘new Labour: because Britain deserves better’ (which I’m unable to find a link to).

Until we start hearing more from David Cameron and the Tories, the more they will stall. They will fail to land that decisive punch, they will fail to connect with voters on the doorstep and they will be more vulnerable to, what is arguably, a more confident Labour machine. The worry is, that the more policy the Tories reveal, the more likely it is that voters will be unsettled. Voters don’t want to hear about cuts, they don’t want to hear that big business and the City are getting off lightly and they don’t want to see any more haunting posters of David Cameron glaring into their souls.

Instead, what we will see, is a party becoming more desperate and more ugly in their attacks. The Tories will revert back to the old Conservatism that’s more eager to play to our fears,  rather than encouraging our hopes and desires.

Labour are still vulnerable and must admit that they’ve been incredibly lucky this week (the whole “take a second look at us and take a long, hard look at them” line is getting a bit thin). Unless Cameron commits to an agenda, one which he actually sticks to, then the Tories will continue to stall.

Their silence is their undoing.

(FYI  The Tories have their “Spring Forum” in Brighton this weekend)

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Statement of support for Biosciences staff from VP Welfare candidate

Aaron Kiely, a committed student activist and community campaigner, as well as candidate for the position of Vice President (Welfare) in the upcoming Kent Union elections, has come out with a statement of support in favour of the UCU and those opposing cuts in higher education. Aaron said:

I am absolutely behind our lecturers and their union in this. I attended the meeting where they voted unanimously to campaign against these redundancies and defend their members, OUR lecturers. To make someone redundant at a time like this where no one is employing is outrageous and these people have families and themselves to support.

The whole process that staff have been made to go through is degrading, with them being graded against an arbritary scale. Female staff are also being disproportionately hit and all four female staff are threatened with redundancies. Science is male-dominated enough, we should be employing and supporting more women in the sciences, not laying them off.

I am heartened to see a lot of student support and look forward to working with the UCU, and other Unions in opposing these redundancies and the mistreatment of staff.

You can join the Facebook group opposing the redundancies here.

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UCU votes to take action at the University of Kent

The University and College Union (UCU) branch at the University of Kent has unanimously voted in favour of taking industrial action if negotiations over compulsory redundancies break down.

The meeting took place last night and was attended by some 124 UCU members at Kent, as well as 5 at Medway and 16 from the Law School.

At the heart of this matter is compulsory redundancies in the Biosciences department, which incidentally is top in Teaching Quality Assessments and top in the National Student Survey.

It has been reported that ten out of the twenty-seven staff members in the Biosciences department have been given letters of notice that they’re scheduled to lose their jobs. It was also highlighted that this is not a financial issue given that the Biosciences department has not run a deficit, instead, it seems to be about re-structuring the department and placing an emphasis on creating jobs which are designed to attract big business investment, rather than placing an emphasis on the quality of teaching students receive.

Keith Mander, the Deputy Vice-Chancellor at the University, has presided over the implementation group which has threatened the staff with redundancies.

The UCU branch chair predicted that a “storm is coming”, as well as saying it’s “never been as bad as this before.”

More from Dave Semple at Though Cowards Flinch.

UPDATE: It is now suggested that 12 members of staff from the Biosciences department face the threat of compulsory redundancy.

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New statement from the University of Sussex student occupation

“On the 8th of February 2010 over one hundred Sussex students entered and occupied the corporate conference centre in Bramber House as a display of support and solidarity for the UCU’s upcoming strike ballot. Furthermore, we stand in solidarity with all other workers at Sussex taking action against the cuts.

In a rally held yesterday we raised over £250 towards the strike fund and urge all those who value the work of staff to contribute further.

We strongly oppose the cuts and lack of meaningful consultation that management has offered students and staff.

This action is only the beginning and it is part of the wider campaign against management’s cuts at Sussex. We intend to continue to bring the fight to management.

We acknowledge that Sussex is not the only university being affected by cuts to public spending and that this is not only a national phenomenon but is affecting public spending and education internationally. We would like to express our solidarity with everyone fighting cuts all over the world.”

Check out their campaign site here and keep the twitter thread.

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Sussex students occupy university over cuts

Today, students from the University of Sussex, have occupied the conference centre over drastic cuts, both locally and nationally.

Here is their statement:

We have occupied the top floor of Bramber House, University of Sussex, Brighton. There are 106 of us.

The decision to occupy has been taken after weeks of concerted campaigning during which the university management have repeatedly failed to take away the threat of compulsory redundancies and course cuts.

We recognise that an attack on education workers is an attack on us.

The room we have occupied is not a lecture theatre but a conference centre. As such, we are not disrupting the education of our fellow students; rather, we are disrupting a key part of management’s strategy to run the university as a profitable business.

They’re occupying everywhere in waves across California, New York, Greece, Croatia, Germany and Austria and elsewhere – and not only in the universities. We send greetings of solidarity and cheerful grins to all those occupation movements and everyone else fighting the pay cuts, cuts in services and jobs which will multiply everywhere as bosses and states try and pull out of the crisis.

But we are the crisis.

Profitability doesn’t make matter for shit against the livelihoods destroyed, lost homes, austerity measures, green or otherwise. We just heard we’ve increased ‘operational costs’ – they’d set out the building for a meeting and now they’ll have to do it again

We’ll show them “operational costs.”

Occupy again and again and again.

NO CUTS ANYWHERE.

THE UNIVERSITY IS A FACTORY. STRIKE. OCCUPY.

-All the occupiers of the 8th of February.

You can follow the action here. And on twitter.

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