Solidarity 590, 28 April 2021

Wave of action in universities to fight cuts

The summer term at UK universities has opened with direct action by students involved in rent and fee strikes — a last push in this academic year to win our demands. Student rent strike activists at Nottingham University, Sheffield Hallam, Sheffield University and Manchester University have occupied university buildings. When two Sheffield Hallam students were filmed being pinned to the floor by security guards, as they went into occupation in the Cantor building, there was a big push back on social media; this was seen to be typical of the way students have been treated all year. Elsewhere —...

Strong fossil-fuel reboot, weak plans

The fossil-fuelled reboot that we have long warned of in the wake of 2020’s Covid-19 lockdowns is on course to be record-shattering — and not in a good way. Global energy-related carbon dioxide emissions are set to see their second highest rise in human history. No, not the second highest levels of atmospheric CO2, nor even the second highest emissions or rate of addition to these levels. In both levels and emissions, 2021 is heading towards first place. Emissions are predicted to rise by 1.5 billion tons, to 33 billion — 33 thousand million tons — over the year, and that 1.5 billion rise is...

Lessons from India and Michigan

Covid cases and deaths in India have rocked since early March, and scanty hospital provision has been overwhelmed in some areas. On the official count, India’s Covid death rate per population is still only what the UK’s was in mid-March, mid-October, or mid-June, and way below the highest rates seen in the UK or in countries like Brazil. However, in India only 22% of deaths are medically certified with a cause of death. The real rate may be much higher. The world Covid death rate has been rising again since mid-March, and is now higher than it has ever been, bar a peak around late January. A...

Remember the class-war prisoners!

The noted international trade union leader Dan Gallin used to say that what the labour movement needed is a “May 2nd Movement”. In other words, after all the wonderful speeches made on May Day, we need to focus on what happens every other day of the year and how we put our ideas into practice. In that spirit, on Sunday May 2, LabourStart will host a major online event focussing on what we sometimes call “class war prisoners”. It’s an archaic term, a leftover from the 1920s, and had been used by — among others — groups with names like “International Red Aid” and “International Labor Defense”...

"Ukraine is the victim of Russian aggression"

Peter Duncan is a professor at the School of Slavonic and Eastern European Studies at University College London. He spoke to Chris Ford of the Ukraine Solidarity Campaign. Many thanks to the campaign for allowing us to publish this interview, which we have abridged and tidied up slightly. We have seen a build up of Russian Federation armed forces on Ukraine’s borders and in Crimea. There has been an escalation in East Ukraine since January. What is behind this? There are 100,000 troops now surrounding Ukraine. The aim is to intimidate Ukraine, to try to persuade it, and the EU and NATO, to...

Three hundred anti-voting laws tabled in US

Part of the US Republican Party’s shift to more radical and authoritarian right-wing politics is its drive to suppress the number of Americans voting — particularly Americans with dark skin. Following Donald Trump’s campaign against the “stealing” of the presidential election, Republicans have introduced bills in many state legislatures to make it harder to vote. The former President’s evidence-free claim of major voter fraud in the US is now mainstream in the Republican Party. Republican politicians typically proclaim that making it harder to vote is a matter of restoring “election integrity”...

Royal Mail: union embraces partnership

After a period of turbulence, including an industrial action that was struck down by the courts, the principal Royal Mail union CWU is embracing a partnership approach with the company. A joint online Q&A was held in late April, hosted by the CWU, where both parties answered questions from workers. This love-in failed to deal with the real issues and consisted of vague promises to fix things. The union has lost so much ground over the last 30 years it is unrecognisable from the organisation that once enjoyed real power in the workplace. Its activist base has shrunk dramatically, with what...

BT: time to fight back on jobs

170 BT Repayment engineers who work for BT Openreach have taken 15 days of strike action against management’s regrading plans for their group. Negotiations are happening this week with BT on the issues of concern including future grading and promotion opportunities. These negotiations are taking place against the background of a potential CWU company wide ballot on job cuts in BT group, i.e. BT, Openreach and EE. The largest number of job cuts has been announced in Openreach. Those are a result of management plans for site closures (mainly in London and the South East) and a significant...

Universities ballot for strikes on course cuts

Multiple branches of the further and higher education union UCU are heading for industrial action after successful ballots. Prison educators working for private firm Novus across forty-nine prisons and young offenders’ institutions were due to take their first day of strike action on 26 April, with two more to follow on 11 and 12 May. That dispute is over health and safety. Staff at London’s United Colleges Group have voted to strike over increased workloads. UCU branches at Leicester and Liverpool have held successful ballots over redundancies, which at Leicester appear to be targeting union...

Vote for "real change" in Unison

The ballot to elect the National Executive Committee (NEC) of the public services union Unison opens on 4 May 2021. The NEC is made up of representatives elected from Unison’s regions and service groups, plus seats for four Black members, two young members and two disabled members. After left candidate Paul Holmes (above) delivered a strong result in the general secretary election, the left in the union have the potential to make big gains in the NEC election. Unfortunately some of this may be squandered by the inability of much of the Unison left to cooperate. The previous electoral alliance...

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