Socialist receives over 300 votes for President of Students’ Union

Socialist receives over 300 votes for President of Students’ Union

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Aidan O’Toole (right) campaigning in solidarity with South African students

Socialist Student members received good results in this year’s Coventry University Students’ Union executive elections, with Aidan O’Toole receiving 307 votes for President (14 per cent). Another Socialist, Sam Kempster, scored a very respectable 102 votes for the position of Vice President of Education.

These results reflect the hard work that Socialist Students have carried out over the year, campaigning on many issues and also it shows the appeal of socialist policies to students who have seen attacks to their rights and living conditions. Tuition fees are set to increase year on year, grants have been cut for the poorest students who now have to take out additional loans and are facing exploitation in the housing sector.

Our campaign was focused on these issues, building on our campaigning work and raising the banner of socialism to a wider audience of students. At the heart of it, we argued that CUSU should take a lead in standing up for students, standing up to the university management when they attack student welfare and taking part in national campaigns for free education.

Students and Workers Unite!

Vital to the work of Socialist Students has been to work with the local University and College Union (UCU) branch, something CUSU consistently fails to do. Instead of working with the lecturers to ensure that both students and lecturers can work together to tackle joint issues. CUSU is seen by some students as the puppet of the university as it time and time again refuses to show solidarity with the UCU in times such as those reported in the Guardian when the university tries its hand at union busting and attacks the rights of its employees (27/09/2016).

Socialist Students, despite receiving little support from within the student council, worked with and supported the UCU and have been consistent in attending UCU picket lines and have organised joint events to foster links between students and staff. We said that if we were elected we would have worked with the UCU to fight back and university cuts, which will become more vital when the Teaching Excellence Framework (TEF) threatens more attacks on both students and staff.

Housing

Coventry Socialist Students are well known for campaigning on housing issues in Coventry. We have successfully shifted CUSU policy towards housing via grass-roots organisation. This has led to the establishment of a Tenant’s Union which, although in its early days, has the potential to lead campaigns to tackle the exploitation students face in the private sector.

Despite CUSU’s support of this, not enough has been done to ensure its success. Socialist union officers would get involved in things like the tenant’s union and get stuck into any campaigns it leads on. Unfortunately this cannot be said for the vast majority of the CUSU leadership. However, we will continue to work on this issue and stay involved in the struggle against dodgy landlords and rogue letting agencies.

Defending Student Welfare

The university has decided to make vicious cuts to welfare schemes, such as the hardship fund, which will stop many students from being able to finish their education. This cut back is so severe that, despite increasing student numbers, the fund is to be halved year on year until it is only just a fraction of what one of the university CEOs make! This saving is unnecessary and shows naked profiteering which will primarily affect people with caring responsibilities or are survivors of domestic abuse and other unforeseen circumstances.

Socialist Students passed a motion calling for the Students’ Union to organise a campaign against this cut, and a vote of no confidence in the university management if they continue down this line. However, this Students’ Union campaign is nowhere to be seen. We stood to defend this scheme and students were shocked when we told them about these attacks! The

The election is over, but our work doesn’t stop

As a Socialist Students society, we don’t stay quiet all year and pretend to be the saviour around election time. We stand up for students by putting forward a socialist agenda in all our campaigns, all year round. This track record is unmatched on campus and is only partially reflected in our votes.

Despite not teaming up with other candidates just to get votes, or taking part in other tricks that are rife in student politics; we pulled a respectable vote. This is because our socialist agenda connected to those students we spoke to who are facing the hard edge of the recent attacks to their rights.

Aidan, Sam and all Socialist Students would like to say ‘thank you’ to all of those hundreds of students who voted for us.

We encourage all those who agreed with our manifesto to get involved and continue the fight for socialism. With the Tories in power, the attacks on students’ rights will continue and it will become more important than ever that students organise against these attacks. The only way to do that is by putting forward socialist ideas, and the best way to do that is to join the Socialist Students!

Join Socialist Students, fill in the form below!

Tories plan further fee hikes for uni students

Tories plan further fee hikes for uni students

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Aidan (second from right) campaigning with TUC Young Workers

The below article by Coventry Socialist Students member Aidan O’Toole was carried in this weeks issue of The Socialist newspaper. The Tories have planned further attacks on students – students need to organise to fight back.

The Tories want universities that meet their backbreaking ‘teaching excellence framework’ targets to be allowed to increase the cost of their courses with inflation. Universities including Manchester have already announced their fees will rise to £9,250 in 2017, before parliament has even considered the measure.

The future is looking bleak for young people. Houses are unaffordable, jobs are low-paid and insecure, and education is becoming more and more elitist.

Universities received £9 billion in tuition fees last year, the highest amount ever. The government has cut central funding to £3 billion.

Rising tuition fees, along with the end of student grants, are increasingly pushing working class people out of higher education. Working class and some middle class students have to decide if a life of debt is worth a degree, which isn’t a guarantee of employment. And that’s only if they can afford to rent accommodation and feed themselves during the course.

It is no surprise that Jeremy Corbyn’s call last year to scrap tuition fees resonates with so many young people. Anger is clear among students who feel like they are putting themselves in a lot of debt for not much gain. The 2016 Student Academic Experience Survey found that two thirds of students felt their degree didn’t give value for money.

The Socialist Party says education is a right and should be free for all. It should not just be a privilege for the super-rich who can afford extortionate fees and high living costs, relying of the bank of mum and dad. We fight for an end to fees, cuts and closures in higher education, for a living grant for all students, and for the return of EMA student payments in further education.

Coventry lecturers strike for fair pay

Coventry lecturers strike for fair pay

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UCU strikers march through Coventry

Lecturers at Coventry’s universities took strike action today to demand a fair pay deal for staff.

Members of Coventry Socialist Students joined pickets at Coventry University to show solidarity with staff, and speaking on the picket line Kris O’Sullivan spoke about the need for a united struggle of students and lecturers for free education and fair pay.

Speakers at the picket line and at the subsequent strike meeting highlighted the three issues the UCU is striking over; the pay freeze for staff which has now been in place for 9 years, the gender pay gap between male and female academic staff, and the increasing casualisation of staff contracts throughout universities.

The strike will continue tomorrow, and lecturers will then be taking ongoing “work to rule” action as part of the dispute. It is crucial that they unite with students, as well as other workers who are taking action such as junior doctors and teachers. Socialist Students members will continue to support their lecturers!

Student solidarity with lecturers strike

Student solidarity with lecturers strike

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UCU members picketing at Coventry University

Coventry Socialist Students have produced the below statement in solidarity with striking lecturers this week. Please read and share, and support the strike however you can!

This week, the UCU trade union (representing academic and related workers, including many students who teach as postgrads) announced their campaign for fairer pay in higher education. They will be on strike at universities across the country on 25th-26th May, and at the same time beginning to work to rule, which means they will refuse to work overtime, set additional work or undertake any voluntary duties like covering timetabled classes for absent colleagues.

Socialist Students supports the UCU in this strike as the fight for free education cannot be isolated to students alone, but must be linked to lecturers and all workers in FE/HE to fundamentally challenge the neo-liberal race to the bottom policies that are stripping away education.

Coventry University UCU will be picketing outside Graham Sutherland Building, Coventry University from 8.30-10.30 on both the strike days. Please join and show solidarity!

Fight for free education, fight for socialism!

Coventry – Why are our politicians failing us?

Coventry- Why are our politicians failing us?

Coventry

Coventry

We are pleased to publish this article by Jane Nellist, a leading trade unionist and anti cuts campaigner in our city, regarding the future of Coventry. It is a contribution to a debate about the way forward, how we can develop Coventry and what sort of policies need to be carried out. We welcome any feedback or comments, see bottom of the article about how to do this (to reply on the website rather than sending us a message scroll right to the bottom). It is particularly relevant at the present time with the forthcoming elections and the new development next to Coventry train station.


Coventry is not my birth city but I, like many others, seeking jobs, family or escaping from devastated countries, have made it their home.  Over the last hundred years, the city has grown to become the 10th biggest city in England with a rich mixture of people and cultures.  It is my city now; my three children were born, educated and grew up here.  I have spent over 30 years campaigning alongside my partner who, for nearly 10 of those years, was a Member of Parliament and then for 14 years a councillor in the city.

To know where we are and where we want to get to, we have to know where we have come from.  As a teacher in the city for over 20 years, I am passionate about teaching children about our city.

The medieval Coventry grew rich on wool and trade.  At one time, the city had the richest collection of medieval buildings to rival those of York and other heritage places.  Most of them destroyed by the bulldozers in the name of development not the Luftwaffe who bombed the city in 1940. They had become slums because there had been no investment in them.

The city has always been  at the heart of the pounding Industrial Revolution with a rich variety of skilled workers making watches, ribbon weaving, bicycles, machine tools  and of course cars.  In the boom of the 50s and 60s the city was rich with the highest paid factory workers the country.   The city centre was an amazing shopping experience – renowned as the best outside of London!  How things have changed!

Out of the rubble of the war, with the post war development we describe Coventry as a Phoenix.  The first purpose built shopping precinct, new homes instead of the decrepit ‘courts’ system, full employment with factories booming,  and of course, the ring road, which to some it’s an efficient way of keeping traffic moving around the centre, to others it’s a concrete collar strangling the city centre.

Housing estates grew very rapidly, hugging the city with green spaces, schools, shops, libraries, pubs and clubs and a heart of their own.  Many of those facilities are now closed and demolished – local services such as libraries are under threat as the council revenue is squeezed by government cuts and the Coalition’s Big Society

So what has gone wrong?  Two words come to mind- Recession and Austerity – Capitalism at its most brutish and thuggish.  It gives some of us the ‘good times’ then slaps you down.  It takes the profits and then moves on.  Huge factories across Coventry have closed, replaced with shopping outlets and lower waged businesses or, like Peugeot who closed the Ryton factory with a loss of 2300 jobs and moved the production to Slovakia.

We now have the most Food Banks.  Poverty blights our communities.  Poor housing contributes to poor health.  Benefit and welfare cuts impoverish our population. Low pay blights our communities. The ‘haves’ blame the ‘have not’s’ and the ‘have not’s’ are ignored or pilloried by the politicians.

So what is the Big Plan?  What are our elected officials and ‘city fathers’ doing to revive us?

Local councillors are fast at picking up their allowances but don’t give us much in return. MPs fly under the radar apart from a few articles in the local paper.  Why haven’t they spearheaded campaigns to save our services?   Democracy is suffering in our city. It’s hard to find much difference between Labour and Tories –all the councillors voted to implement huge cuts  with hardly a whimper of protest!  They wouldn’t even organise a protest to Westminster about the unfair cuts to the budget for the city or join other councils in an organised lobby of government.

Our council services are being hacked to pieces; children’s centres, libraries, community centres, resources to charities and voluntary sector services, education services, elderly care and youth services…….the list goes on.  Services that past generations fought for are being wiped out.

The City Council has recently produced the City Plan which identifies land for development and how they are going to meet the need for more housing and employment in our city.

Housing is a huge issue. With thousands on the housing waiting list, more living in over-crowded, poor housing, the Council’s answer is to build thousands of houses with an emphasis on detached housing on the greenbelt – Coventry apparently doesn’t have enough detached housing!

Our priority must be to urgently build affordable, low rent high quality family homes to relieve the misery. We need to also implement a huge programme of house improvement. Walk around the streets of Coventry and see how many homes need serious structural improvements including re-roofing and a whole host of repairs as well as efficient glazing.

Tenants are being left in the hands of big landlords and private letting agents, many charging exorbitant rents and ‘admin’ fees, often for poor quality housing. In the university areas, landlords have crammed four or more students into what had previously been two-bed properties, pushing families out of the area. This situation has been worsened by the Tory bedroom tax.

There are more and more homeless people visibly living on our streets. These are people who have fallen into a spiral of traps which they can’t get out of. Poor mental health services and the lack of drug and alcohol support programmes, lack of emergency housing, ‘Catch-22’ benefit system and a society that seeks to demonise the homeless mean that they have few ways out. In our city, that should be unacceptable. Everyone should have the right to a home. More supported housing is needed for those most vulnerable.

Over the last few years, the impact of unemployment especially amongst young people, benefit cuts, zero hour contracts and lower wages have had a devastating impact on our communities. Child poverty is going through the roof which has such an impact on young people for potentially, the rest of their life. That’s why I strongly support the demand for £10 an hour minimum wage and an end to zero hour contracts and the restoration of welfare and benefit support for those most in need. This would immediately lift those poorest families in Coventry to start to have a more decent life.

One of the big debates in our city at the moment is the impact of the growth of the two universities in our city- (yes that’s right- Warwick University is geographically within Coventry!) It’s not just about student numbers, although that is a big issue.

As a teacher, it’s great that we have two successful universities. However, there is a growing imbalance in our city, especially with the impact of Coventry University. The foot print of the university on our relatively small city centre is becoming like a big hob nail boot. Now the university is to take over office space used currently by the City Council which is moving into accommodation at the new train station development- Friargate. I hear more and more people commenting on the takeover of the city by the university. Soon our signs on approaching Coventry will say ‘welcome to Coventry University, the Home of Coventry’. We need to call a halt to this.

The proportion of young people in our city is growing and that’s good but many of those are the growing student numbers who only live in the city for only part of the year.   How can we build a successful commercial space when many of those are only here term time?

Coventry does have a great future if we have a plan that meets the needs of all of it’s people.

We need more investment and better paid jobs for local people. If we don’t have the skills, we need proper training facilities.

We need more resources for our public services especially for our elderly. The development of the over 50 complex at The Butts is great but what about those who do not have the wealth to move in there?

Too many elderly people who have given their working life to the companies who have made loads of money out of their labour are not receiving the care they need now. Too many private care homes are poor quality. Council Care homes are being closed. We need resources quickly to make their life more comfortable and enjoyable.

Our shopping centre suffers, as do many others with competition from out of city shopping citadels. Other towns and cities, easily accessible, offer a more pleasant shopping experience, so they say.  Empty shops, a plethora of charity shops, pound shops, betting and pawn shops as well temporary pop-up shops seem to be the norm in our city.  Many of the locally owned shops struggle with high rates in the city centre so you end up with the same High Street companies vying for our hard earned pounds- or credit.  At night, the city centre closes down and becomes a dead zone. No vibrant café culture for us. Clubs closing down and too few places for our young people to let off steam and dance the night away!

With the axing of youth centres across the city, there are few places for young people to meet up.  Entertainment is expensive and if you have not got the money, street corners are the only place to congregate.  We need better resources for our young people.

There are also fewer public toilets and baby changing/feeding places in the city.  We should have more. They need to be well lit, clean  and safe.

There is no doubt that our Phoenix is not in good health at all!  Our city is now a ‘Marmot’ city- a city that has been identified because of poor health indicators and health inequalities.  We have some of the lowest life expectancy in our poorest areas.  Some may say we are ‘Marmite’ city- you love it or hate it!  The latest atrocity is the new Study Inn in the old AXA building- a tetris or lego block, gaudy in its red grey and black garb. How did we allow this? The 3 spires are supposed to be the focal point.

There are some great things happening in the city- Fargo in Gosford Street is amazing and a breath of fresh air, Ego theatre, Artspace and other art venues, Warwick Arts Centre is the biggest outside of London.  Where people stand firm, we can win- look at the success of Charterhouse. By standing firm, residents have won and not only kept the field and the Charterhouse buildings but also, with Lottery Heritage funding, the facilities will be enhanced.  If it had been left up to the council, those community resources would have  been lost forever.

We have a great tourist trade with the Cathedrals and other historic buildings such as the world renowned Coventry Transport Museum, but we don’t harness it.  Our city should be buzzing at night with all of the varied restaurant and culture we have to offer.

The Herbert Gallery and Museum has a great collection and fantastic visiting exhibitions. We have the Two Tone Village which celebrates our rich musical heritage and of course the Belgrade Theatre.

Often, it’s hard to find out what is going on in the city- we are not good at telling people until it has happened!  It’s even harder if you have limited resources.  How often are venues half full or audiences that quite frankly are not representative of our population? – wouldn’t it be great if prices were reduced so that it could be more accessible.    I believe that we should have more free events. Culture should be at the heart of the city and accessible to all.  The Godiva festival is a great example how Coventry comes together with a free event.  Even that is now threatened with the Council cuts.

If you tell me that all of this is pie in the sky and that there is no money, ask yourself- Why are the rich getting so much richer? How come bankers are still getting over £80 billion in bonuses alone? Of course there is money, it’s just that we don’t control where it is spent. That’s why I am voting for TUSC in this election because there is a different way forward.

So what should we campaign for to ensure a brighter future for our city? :

  • Build more affordable housing in the city. Homes that are energy efficient. Mixed housing, flats and family homes with gardens. This is an urgent priority.
  • Ensure all brown field sites are utilised fully for priority housing and employment.
  • We should protect Green Belt land. It’s not ‘nimbyism’, the Green Belt belongs to everyone and should be protected for leisure pursuits with quality footpaths for wheelchair use and pushchairs and cycleways.
  • Improve the public transport system making it cheaper for people to use. Expand the ‘ring and ride’ so that those with certain needs can take part in the wider life of the city.
  • Build homes for people in the city centre. We need to re-populate the city centre. Stop the city becoming a student village with companies making huge amounts of profit out of students.
  • Stop the use of family homes for students and put more duties on landlords to look after the properties, including ensuring that homes are safe and well repaired, keeping entries accessible and clear of rubbish. Multiple occupancy homes should be registered with higher standards. If landlords fail to meet standards then have powers to transfer the homes to council ownership.
  • Build high quality student accommodation in other areas of the city.
  • Restore the Street Warden scheme and increase street cleaning. Ensure that there are facilities for people to get rid of bulky rubbish instead of dumping it on street corners.
  • Curb the development of the two Universities. There is a serious imbalance within the City Centre which is becoming increasingly Coventry University campus. Encourage the University to open up their facilities for the people of Coventry.
  • An immediate increase of the minimum wage to £10 hour for all workers whatever their age.
  • End zero hours contracts and limit the use of agency workers.
  • Increase the number of Apprentices with proper training, an increase in pay and a guaranteed job at the end of the training.
  • In conjunction with the Universities and Colleges, set up training programmes for those unemployed to equip them with skills for jobs.
  • Initiate an urgent city wide investigation into Child Poverty tasked with drawing up a plan to eradicate it in our city.
  • Stop the closure of libraries and other local services.
  • Increase Adult Education in the city.
  • Expand leisure and health facilities in the city. We should be building a 50 metre pool in the city.
  • Develop community facilities in local areas around Coventry. These should be freely accessible offering a wide range of entertainment, education and proper public information sessions.

Agree, disagree? Leave a comment or contact us if you want to get involved!

Coventry students demand £10 now for uni workers

Coventry students demand £10 now for uni workers

Coventry Socialist Students members campaigning with TUC Young Workers

Coventry Socialist Students members campaigning with TUC Young Workers

This week marked another success for Coventry Socialist Students as a motion calling for a £10 an hour living wage, proposed and seconded by CSS members, passed through the students union council. We argued that the SU should campaign for the university to pay all staff at least £10/hr, the policy of the TUC (Trade Union Congress),

This motion, adding to the SU housing responsibility motion previously passed, represents another area of student’s lives which CUSU now has to campaign to improve. The motion means the union has resolved:

  • To campaign for an £10hr minimum wage for all university and CUSU staff.
  • To release a public statement criticising the university management for amassing such a great surplus revenue and not allocating it to improve the conditions of its workers.
  • To release a public statement against the pay rise of the university management whilst the average wage paid by the university to its staff has decreased.
  • To release a public statement expressing support with the UCU with their grievances, as well as calling for student and worker’s unity.
  • To mandate the Communications Officer to communicate with the UCU in regards of future co-operation about issues students or lectures face with the University management so a united front can be presented.
  • That the Union as a whole will campaign to increase student awareness on the surplus revenue the University has, the exploitation going on of workers and the importance of paying £10 an hour (TUC Living Wage).

Not only does this motion have a direct effect on students employed on campus by the university, CUSU or any outsourced services, it also has a much wider implication to the university. The motion also called for greater co-operation between CUSU and the UCU, the main Trade Union representing lectures. This is significant as it allows students and lectures greater opportunity to unite together to campaign together against the commodification of education and the ever increasing corporate style running of the university.

Furthermore, CUSU now has to publicly criticise the management for amassing over £21m in ‘surplus revenue’ last year. This is a very significant step in turning the SU into a campaigning, fighting organisation which will stick up for students even if it goes against the university management.

As a society which fights for students we will continue to work within and outside the student union to achieve our aims. If you agree with what we’re campaigning for, and want to fight for socialist change, join Socialist Students!

Socialist election campaign launched in Coventry

Socialist election campaign launched in Coventry

Dave Nellist addresses the meeting

Dave Nellist addresses the meeting

77 people attended the launch of the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition (TUSC) election campaign in Coventry on February 25th. The Socialist Party, which organised the meeting, is standing as part of TUSC alongside the RMT trade union and many leading trade unionists.

Judy Griffiths, Coventry CWU branch secretary and prospective TUSC candidate, chaired the meeting, at which speakers from the FBU, PCS, Unison, Unite, RMT, NUT and NUS spoke (all speaking in a personal capacity), reflecting the base of TUSC and the Socialist Party in the unions across the city.

Jordan Jefferies, a sixth-form student in Coventry and a Socialist Party member, spoke about the anger felt by many young people against austerity, and said that TUSC has been amazing in attempting to engage the people who are disillusioned and disinterested in politics. People are disillusioned and angry with establishment politics and rightly so. The Socialist Party and TUSC are out to build the opposition to “business as usual”.

Nicky Downes, Coventry NUT President and prospective TUSC candidate, spoke about the effects she sees of austerity on children in her job as a teacher.

Nick Harrison, Coventry Fire Brigades Union borough rep had been on strike with his union the same day – supported on the picket lines by Socialist Party and TUSC activists – and spoke about their dispute, and the need for a viable political alternative to Labour.

Lee Cooper, RMT Coventry No.1 branch secretary, spoke about the City Link scandal, the effect it had on workers and the need for a working class political voice.

Former Labour MP and Socialist Party councillor Dave Nellist spoke about the TUSC project more widely, and why it is significant in the development of a new party for ordinary people.

This meeting showed some of the appetite in Coventry for a political party that sticks up for ordinary people. Syriza in Greece and Podemos in Spain show the potential for building an anti-austerity alternative. The Socialist Party will build TUSC and fight for bold socialist policies to combat not just austerity, but the cause of austerity – the capitalist system.

Sign up here to get involved in the Socialist Campaign Team for the election!