QMUL students occupy against education cuts

On Monday 12 March, students at Queen Mary University of London (QMUL) in east London began an occupation of the prestigious Octagon building – a Grade II listed building used by the university for holding major events. The occupation is in protest against huge cuts to bursaries for students from low-income families, and in solidarity with the long-running UCU strike over cuts to pensions. Students, including supporters of the RCG, have been in occupation since then, organising to put pressure on the university management over these issues. The occupation is one of 13 current student occupations all over the country, including the University of Sheffield, Kings College London, Cambridge, Bath, Exeter, Reading, Dundee, Aberdeen and York.

QMUL has silently cut bursaries for most students from low-income families (households earning less than £42,600p/a) – many bursaries have been halved, and many scrapped altogether. A slight increase for students from families earning under £15,000p/a will not distract from this massive attack on poorer students. Instead the university will be putting money into the ‘QM Model’ which attempts to improve student employability by improving their ‘social capital’. Former Principal Simon Gaskell and Vice-Principal Rebecca Lingwood argued in The Guardian on 2 October: ‘Evidence at Queen Mary University of London suggests that our graduates do not always succeed personally, nor make a societal contribution, to the extent that their talents and educational qualifications should enable’, explaining this with the fact that ‘60% of [QMUL] students are from an ethnic minority.’ This is a further move in the general commodification of higher education backed up by a racist argument posed in terms of helping integrate black and brown people into British capitalism.

The occupation is demanding:

  • The reversal of bursary cuts without making other cuts to student support (whilst retaining the slight increase in support for those with a family income under £15,000).
  • The redefinition of the purpose of bursaries to ensure quality of experience for low income students, rather than recruitment and retention.
  • That bursaries be evaluated in terms of student experience, including mental health, part-time employment, and academic opportunity/attainment, rather than simply drop-out rates.
  • That university finance is made more transparent by submitting a biannual financial report to the student council.
  • That Colin Bailey (the President and Principal) declares support for the retention of the defined benefits pension scheme in its current form – which UCU are striking to keep – and commit QMUL to providing increased contributions if necessary.
  • That salary deductions for participation in industrial action will be spread over a three-month period and that no deductions will be made from hourly-paid staff.
  • That the university release its gender pay gap and diversity data.

The occupation has received widespread support from striking staff and students. Daily demonstrations have been called at 12pm in the Library Square to raise awareness of the occupation and its demands, and the occupation will be holding various actions to continue to escalate pressure on the management.

Support the QMUL occupation! No to bursary cuts! No to pension cuts! Fight for free education for all!

Update, 15 March 2018

The number of universities with student occupations has now grown to 17:

  • Strathclyde
  • Glasgow
  • Edinburgh
  • Dundee
  • Aberdeen
  • Sussex
  • Surrey
  • King’s College London
  • Queen Mary University of London
  • Exeter
  • Bath
  • Cambridge
  • York
  • Stirling
  • Sheffield
  • Reading
  • Nottingham

No such thing as intentional homelessness – Sara must stay in Newham

Robin Wales, head of Newham Labour Council since 1995 and Labour Mayor of Newham since 2002 is facing the end of his reign. Rokhsana Fiaz is standing against him for the Labour mayoral candidacy and the results will be announced on Friday 16 March after local Labour members have voted. This situation came about after a trigger democracy process which has forced Wales to accept a challenger for the first time. All Newham wards voted for someone to stand against him. Wales is running scared and after decades of vicious treatment of working class people in the borough, he now proclaims himself a socialist leading a radical council. Nothing could be further from the truth.

Focus E15 Campaign has been working with Sara, a mother of two young children in Newham. Her story is outlined on the Focus E15 website here. Since she refused to be moved to Birmingham, Newham Council says she has made herself ‘intentionally homeless’ and has discharged their duty to house her.

On International Women’s Day, Thursday 8 March, Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! stood with Sara and Focus E15 Campaign, alongside children and parents from Sara’s son’s school, Museum of Homelessness, Streets Kitchen and Newham Green Party,  as we challenged Robin Wales at the Mayoral Proceedings. This meeting is where Robin Wales rubber stamps anything he likes surrounded by his hand-picked cronies from the council. Usually an hour long, on 8 March Robin Wales looked shifty and nervous as the public gallery filled up and he raced through proceedings. After only 22 minutes he and his colleagues made a swift exit. They saw and they heard but not one stopped to look at the messages on the banners or placards nor listen to the speeches and chants from the gallery, as we demonstrated our solidarity with Sara. There is no such thing as intentional homelessness and Sara must be housed in Newham, near her family and support networks, in her community and where her children go to school.

With news of the protest spreading on social media, the local press took interest and Wales’ challenger Rokhsana Fiaz asked to meet with Sara and Focus E15 Campaign. Newham Council was forced to issue a statement defending their callous treatment of Sara and her children and standing by their decision to refuse her any further housing support.

The pressure is on, but we must all remember that Sara is just one of thousands of people and families who are facing social cleansing in Newham and at the hands of rotten Labour boroughs all around London. We must also be aware that replacing Robin Wales, while a huge victory after his years of abuse of working class people, migrants and the most vulnerable in our communities, will not solve the problems of capitalism. Rokhsana Fiaz says that housing is first of her top three priorities. It is up to us to hold her to account. Focus E15 Campaign has pledged to do this. Join us!

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Seven months on: No justice for Grenfell survivors

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Fortress democracy: all residents are searched on the way into council meetings

Report on RBKC council meeting, 24 Jan 2018

24 Jan 2018 - West London RCG and supporters attended the latest full council meeting at Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea (RBKC) town hall, where the Council was due to give an update on its response to the Grenfell fire. Over previous months RCG members have collected 1,500 signatures from the people of Kensington, demanding for survivors to be re-housed immediately, for criminal charges to immediately be brought against those responsible, and for a People’s Inquiry led by the local community. We came to the council meeting to submit the petition on behalf of the many who signed it.

Maintaining and building protest at these meetings remains crucial. According to the North Kensington Law Centre, more than seven months after the fire, only 54 households made homeless now have permanent accommodation, and 98 households are still in emergency accommodation. This is despite the famous pledge by Prime Minister Theresa May that they would be rehoused within three weeks.

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Grenfell Fire - Fight for Justice!

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Upcoming events in January:

Join us in solidarity with the Silent Walk

Sunday 14th January, 6.30pm

- at Notting Hill Methodist Church W11 4AH


Demonstrate against Rydon (the company that fitted unsafe cladding at Grenfell Tower)

Thursday 18th January, 9-10am

- meet at Angel Tube Station


Demonstrate at the next RBKC council meeting

Wednesday 24th January, 6pm

- at the Town Hall, Hornton Street W8 7NX


Public meeting to discuss Grenfell Fire and the Housing Crisis

Tuesday 30th January, 7.30pm

- at Marchmont Street Community Centre, 62 Marchmont St WC1N 1AB


Demonstrate outside the Public Inquiry

Tuesday 30th and Wednesday 31st January, 10am

Holborn Bars EC1N 2NQ


We will also continue to be on the streets of West London every Saturday outside Ladbroke Grove Tube Station from 1pm to 3pm.
 
The National and Local Government have continued to show contempt for the community of Grenfell, survivors and relatives. The majority of families still have not been offered appropriate and safe accommodation in their borough. The request that for the Public Inquiry to have a diverse decision-making panel has been rejected outright by Theresa May.
 
Meanwhile across London social housing is being sold off and demolished by both Labour and Tory councils in the midst of a housing crisis, leaving people in unsafe, neglected accommodation. We must build a movement to defend social housing and to fight for justice for the community of Grenfell.
 
We'd love to see you at the events! Don't just get angry, get active!
 
In strength and solidarity,

West London Revolutionary Communist Group

London Events

London branches

North London
020 7837 1688
northlondonfrfi@gmail.com

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