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From The Socialist newspaper, 6 January 2021

University teaching moves online in England

Workers to fight redundancies and pay freeze

Brighton UCU pickett line Photo: Glenn Kelly

Brighton UCU pickett line Photo: Glenn Kelly   (Click to enlarge)

Bea Gardner, Southampton UCU (personal capacity)

Like in the rest of education, university staff and students are left in disarray by this consistently inconsistent and incompetent Tory government.

Under mounting pressure even before the lockdown announcement, the universities minister, Michelle Donelan, sent a last-minute letter to universities on 30 December (one working day before students were due back) to announce a staggered return from 25 January for students. Then, just days later, unmentioned in Boris Johnson's speech, the government gave instructions to keep learning online. Meanwhile, as it stands, the Welsh government is set to continue with a staggered return.

In England, where the announced lockdown does mitigate some of the worst of workers immediate safety fears, it still poses challenges. Those now attempting to manage home working with home schooling need appropriate flexible working arrangements, including paid time off if needed.

Workers asked to attend the workplace still need safety provision and new risk assessments which take into account the higher infectivity rates of the new Covid strain. Postgraduate students continue to resist government's decision that they should "adapt" their projects without funding extensions. And of course, we still face the onslaught of cuts and voluntary and compulsory redundancies, alongside the announced pay freeze for this year.

But branches of the University and Colleges Union (UCU) are fighting back. Members at Brighton, East London and Goldsmiths universities have successfully won ballots for industrial action against redundancies. They could soon be joined by many other UCU branches including Solent, Manchester Met, Roehampaton and Birmingham, all having delivered impressive consultative ballot results in the autumn term.

The National Education Union has showed that unions have power (see pages 2-3) - collective organising can win massive concessions for workers. Such action is a start towards building a movement capable of winning more than concessions, but transforming our workplaces in our interests.

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Finance appeal

The coronavirus crisis has laid bare the class character of society in numerous ways. It is making clear to many that it is the working class that keeps society running, not the CEOs of major corporations.

The results of austerity have been graphically demonstrated as public services strain to cope with the crisis.

The government has now ripped up its 'austerity' mantra and turned to policies that not long ago were denounced as socialist. But after the corona crisis, it will try to make the working class pay for it, by trying to claw back what has been given.

  • The Socialist Party's material is more vital than ever, so we can continue to report from workers who are fighting for better health and safety measures, against layoffs, for adequate staffing levels, etc.
  • When the health crisis subsides, we must be ready for the stormy events ahead and the need to arm workers' movements with a socialist programme - one which puts the health and needs of humanity before the profits of a few.
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In The Socialist 6 January 2021:


Feature

2020 - a year which drove home the catastrophic failures of capitalism


Schools

Workers' action wins Tory U-turn on school safety


News

3 lockdowns, 20+ U-turns ... We can't trust the Tories

Nottingham City Council: Major battles against cuts ahead

UNICEF feeds children in the UK for the first time

News in brief

Hospital security staff on strike for 12 an hour

British Gas workers on strike against fire and re-hire pay cut


NHS

Protect the NHS - Funding, Pay, PPE, Public ownership

Protect lives and livelihoods, fight to defend the NHS


Engels

Engels on the origins of women's oppression


Universities

Universities: refund the rent, cancel the fees, for fully funded, publicly owned education

University teaching moves online in England


Reader's opinion

Books that inspired me: The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck

Technology and AI response: Capitalists only invest for profit


 

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