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Socialist Students: fight for free education
On 6 December students from 25 universities and colleges around the country met in London for the Socialist Students national conference.
The meeting elected a new national steering committee and passed a number of motions (see www.socialiststudents.org.uk for details), including on the issues discussed below. Coming after a number of protests and occupations and the national free education demonstration on 19 November, the conference discussed the urgent need to step up the action against cuts and fees.
It was agreed that in the spring term Socialist Students will organise a day of action and campaign for the National Union of students to call a national demonstration.
Warwick University: Cops off campus!
During a peaceful sit-in at Warwick University on 4 December calling for free education, students were attacked by police and security guards using CS spray and drawing a taser. Video footage clearly shows police brutality, with a female protester being dragged across the room by her hair, and another student being put in a headlock and slammed to the floor.
These actions were a disgrace, and the next day students rightly called a protest in response. This was attended by over 1,000 people. Sierra Leonean activist Mohammed Wurie spoke at the demo and brought solidarity from Coventry University student union and Coventry Socialist Students.
After the demonstration around 200 students began an occupation. Dan Crowter, a member of Coventry Socialist Party and Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition (TUSC) local election candidate, read a solidarity statement from Dave Nellist, national chair of TUSC and former Coventry socialist councillor.
Dave said: "I support the right of Warwick students to protest, including peaceful sit-ins and occupations, to regain genuinely free education... The actions of the police on Wednesday may be an aberration - or it may be part of a pattern that believes kettling and heavy handed policing of student protest is ok. Either way a proper and genuine investigation is required. The police need to be democratically accountable to the communities they serve."
We need to organise more mass demonstrations and occupations as part of a wider movement to fight for free education and to change society.
Warwick and Coventry Socialist Students
- See www.socialiststudents.org.uk for reports of other occupations and actions for free education
Leeds University: For affordable housing
Housing is a yearly stress for students in Leeds - from who they are going to live with to where they are going to live. The biggest issue is the cost - extortionate rates for sub-standard accommodation. For many, their student loan doesn't even cover rent. They are then forced into part time jobs - mainly on zero-hour contracts.
It is not just private rented housing that is affected by these high costs. University halls in Leeds, on average, cost over £100 a week. Many student loans only cover £90 a week to live on. Therefore if a student can't get a larger loan or be supported by their family, living in halls becomes near impossible to afford.
Leeds University Socialist Students is fighting for a student union-run letting agency. This will mean students will be able to access affordable accommodation that is of a decent standard. York University Socialist Students have already won this demand and the group in Coventry is making great progress.
Maddy Steeds, Leeds Socialist Students
Yorkshire: £10 now! End zero-hour contracts!
On 15 November 30 young trade unionists and students met in Sheffield for a TUC young workers month event on the theme of 'pay, politics and pressure'.
We spoke about building on the huge movement among fast food workers in the US and the stunning victory of the 15 Now campaign in Seattle earlier this year, when a $15 an hour minimum wage was won. Afterwards a Fast Food Rights campaign protest and public meeting were organised which 50 people attended.
Speaking at both events were Ian Hodson, president of the bakers' union BFAWU which initiated Fast Food Rights, and Ian Pattison from Youth Fight for Jobs who reported on his visit to Seattle.
At the meeting, plans were discussed to widen the campaign by visiting new areas in the region and aiming to get other unions to take up the issues of zero-hour contracts and a £10 an hour minimum wage.
We also planned to intensify the campaign by targeting particular employers.
Iain Dalton, Yorks and Humber TUC youth convener (personal capacity)
Phone our national office on 020 8988 8777
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Regional Socialist Party organisers:
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Yorkshire: 078 0983 9793