Conference: Defeating Cuts in Education, Saturday 29. May, Brighton

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no1
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May 16 2010 14:32
Conference: Defeating Cuts in Education, Saturday 29. May, Brighton

Defeating Cuts in Education
Building nationwide student-worker solidarity

Saturday 29. May 12-6pm, in Brighton

As a new government is getting ready to attack the living conditions of ordinary people, students and education workers have already had experiences with cuts - and how we can stop them. We will try to draw the lessons from the strikes, occupations and other forms of direct action taken in HE and FE over the last months. How can we build effective alliances between students and workers? How can we act in solidarity across education establishments? How can we organise from below to defend education?

National conference with talks and workshops, open to students and education workers

Organised by Anarchist Society and Brighton Solidarity Federation
for the Autonomous Student Network and the Education Workers Network

http://www.stopthecuts.net/conference

Facebook event: http://www.facebook.com/event.php?eid=116208155086022&ref=ts
For more information, contact education.cuts.conference@googlemail.com
If possible let us know that you're attending, by subscribing on facebook or emailing us on education.cuts.conference@googlemail.com

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JoeMaguire
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May 18 2010 15:05

You guys going to be recording discussions? Workshops could be really productive.

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Choccy
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May 27 2010 17:06

As busy as I am with work and study, I will make it down for this as I do think it's going to be really valuable to have the discussions about how the attacks against education workers at all levels will be upped. Lookin forward to learning a lot too.

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Joseph Kay
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May 27 2010 17:39
october_lost wrote:
You guys going to be recording discussions? Workshops could be really productive.

probably won't be recording, but we're hoping to compile minutes and any hand outs, materials etc into a resource pack which will be uploaded to stopthecuts.net afterwards.

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Alf
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May 27 2010 20:28

Sound important. Difficult to get to this, but there are a lot of things happening in education at the moment. Beltov was involved in discussions in a militant general meeting at his college in the Midlands - hope he has time to write this up.
It would be good to post a short summary of this meeting on libcom as well as the longer pack you mention.

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Choccy
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May 27 2010 20:53

I might try and write up something after whatever sessions i'm involved in but no guarantees, I'm someone will write summat up though!

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Choccy
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May 30 2010 00:16

We agreed that people would try and write up both their individual talks and session summaries, hopefully by next weekend.

Was a productive day with good discussions and workshops, if slightly depressing thinking abiut the sheer scale of attacks to come.

gypsy
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May 30 2010 08:51

Sounds good.

Beltov
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Jun 8 2010 15:34
Alf wrote:
Beltov was involved in discussions in a militant general meeting at his college in the Midlands - hope he has time to write this up.

Here we go then...

I teach at an FE college in Birmingham, where there has been some development in the movement against the cuts in education. Before we broke up for Easter the Principal spoke at several all-staff meetings to keep us up-to-date on the cuts in funding, and at that time reassured us that while times would be hard for the next three years (at least), and we'd have to get used to doing 'more with less', there wouldn't be any compulsory redundancies. However, a voluntary redundancy scheme was dusted off and staff were encouraged to go for it if they really wanted to leave.

Just after the general election (I think) we were all called to an emergency meeting -- on the same day as the UCU strikes at colleges and unis in London -- where the Principal announced that the financial situation had deteriorated to the extent there was a £6m hole in the budget for next year, £1m of which had to be recovered from the wage bill. Despite all the election propaganda about education being ring-fenced from the cuts, funding per head of student was being reduced, meaning that we'd have to have larger class sizes and heavier workloads just to stand still. As a result, he announced that there would be 117 posts 'at risk' amongst teaching and support staff, with the college looking for around 40 compulsory redundancies out of these 117. Section 188 notices were served and moral plummeted.

However, a week later the two main unions at the college (UCU and UNISON) called a meeting which was very well attended, and was open to non-union members (like myself). The regional organiser from UCU explained the situation at other colleges in the area -- at least 20 other colleges were making compulsory redundancies, some on the scale of 100 to 150 jobs going. I was able to speak to the meeting, stressing the long-term nature of the period of austerity facing all workers, the international scale of the attacks (Greece, Spain , Portugal), the need to avoid struggles being trapped in the 'education' sector, of linking up with struggles in the public and private sector.

After an hour or so of discussion the regional organiser proposed a ballot for strike action, which was voted for unanimously. I had never seen this before in my 10 years working at the college. This was a clear message that the staff weren't going to take the cuts lying down! The UCU also invited those present to come to a regional meeting of UCU activists in a few weeks time...

A week later there was an article in The Guardian about the efforts the college had made to respond to the 'learner voice', in particular spending £1.2m on improving the toilets and other facilities. Granted, this was done last year when the college was flush with money from the sale of one of its old sites, and before the scale of the cuts was known. The UCU must have tipped of the local evening paper because soon after it ran a story about the college making staff redundant to save £1m in wages, while spending £1.2million on toilets!

I went to the UCU regional meeting, which was attended by about 70 rank and file activists and reps. Again, the mood of those present was quite militant (I actually heard the words 'solidarity', 'working class', and 'comrade'!) Union reps from several local colleges gave details of the situations they were facing, and several speakers stressed the need to overcome the 'competitive' divisions between staff at different colleges (encouraged by management). I was again able to speak and stressed once more the need to extend and unite any struggles and warned in particular of the danger that the media and politicians would seek to divide workers in the public and private sectors. Several other speakers from other unions present (PCS, UNISON) agreed with this. Someone also spoke about the struggle at Tower Hamlets College in London, and a rep from a local university gave advice from a recent struggle against they had conducted.

Given the adverse publicity the college was now getting, and more significantly the unanimous vote for strike action, the management have since agreed to withdraw the threat of compulsory redundancies, but only for the time being, and through gritted teeth. I doubt it won't be long before they have to come back and try again. I haven't heard about any other local colleges withdrawing cuts and strikes will be taking place at them on the national day of action, which is penciled in for Monday 21st June.

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Joseph Kay
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Aug 9 2010 00:09

Bump, we have compiled a lot of the materials but are still waiting on a few things. I'll find out where we're at and see if it's better to just publish the stuff we have.