A crisis that needs leadership

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Since 2009, pay in the Further and Higher Education sector has been effectively cut by nearly 20 percent in real terms, while staff are being asked to work harder and longer than ever before. The employers’ own analysis highlights that women and black and minority ethnic staff experience significant pay discrimination. Casual contracts remain entrenched. Yet university employers are refusing to commit themselves to meaningful action on any of these appalling conditions. This has meant that members of the University and College Union (UCU) are currently taking strike action over falling pay, the gender and ethnic pay gap, precarious employment practices, and unsafe workloads in what has become known as the “Four Fights” dispute.Socialist Review spoke to activists in the University and College Union (UCU), and members of the UCU Left network, about the escalating crisis in Higher Education and the Four Fights dispute.

SR: How has the Covid-19 pandemic impacted on Higher Education?
Bee: It’s caused multiple waves of uncertainty and anxiety — from campus closures and hasty moves to online teaching, to navigating the support we need to work at home, to fears of increased workloads or job losses and the challenge of negotiating a safe return to campus. Finding work that isn’t highly precarious was already a big challenge. Now we face hiring freezes or threats to jobs, intensified competition for research funding, and casualised staff will have even less chance of more work in September.

Teaching the Tories a Lesson

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Socialist Review spoke to activists about organising under lockdown

In late May and early June, without a ballot or picket lines, education workers inflicted a serious defeat on the government. A wave of discussion and collective organising by tens, perhaps hundreds, of thousands of teachers and school staff took place across England’s 17,000 primary schools and nurseries. It culminated in knocking back the Tories’ plans to reopen schools more widely on 1 June — and it saved lives.

Crisis takes its toll on South Korean workers

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Jang Ho-jong, Kim Munseong and Lee Jeongwon respond to questions about the pandemic and class struggle in South Korea

SR: The South Korean government of Moon Jae-in has been praised internationally for having stopped the exponential spread of the Covid-19 without resorting to curfew. What did the lockdown in South Korea look like?

Never going back to 'Normal'

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Ifeoma Obi spoke to black workers from around Britain about the impact of the pandemic and the Black Lives Matter movement

Ameen is a Union Official in Salford City Council
SR: How has your job changed?
“The first thing we agreed was that all individual representation would be suspended because we have bigger things to deal with. This was agreed with management. As a general position this approach has been very helpful although individuals with grievances that predate the lockdown are still stuck. But it has allowed us to do organising work on a collective basis with our reps. The level of engagement within the union has been much higher than I’ve ever seen.

Emerging from the margins

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In his new book Roddy Slorach describes disability as "a very capitalist condition". He spoke to Socialist Review about myths and movements.

Why did you want to write a book on Marxism and disability?

First, the resurgence of interest in disability politics because of the Tories’ attack on disabled people and their rights and benefits, and the emergence of organisations like Disabled People Against Cuts.

Battering down the fortress

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Author Matthew Carr speaks to Socialist Review about the political significance of the current refugee crisis on the borders of Europe.

There has been a lot of talk by the media saying this is the biggest reefugee crisis since the Second World War. What do you make of it?

On one level it’s true. It’s the largest numbers of refugees since just after the war. It is a major refugee crisis, although really it’s been brewing for some time and it’s a rather belated recognition of how serious it is.

Unionising the room factory

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Socialist Review spoke to Ewa Jasiewicz and Rafel Sanchis of the Unite Hotel Workers Branch about organising in the hospitality industry

What are the key issues that hotel workers face in London today?

Ewa: There are many different departments that make up the hotel team — or what I call the factory. We have this idea of hotels as luxurious and elegant places where people have a good time, and on the face of it this is true.

But behind the scenes is this very strict, micro-managed, pressurised environment, where agency work, casualisation, zero hour contracts, understaffing and poverty pay are the dominant conditions of employment.

Putting solidarity back into Pride

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Nicola Field and Gethin Roberts of Lesbians and Gays Support the Miners spoke to Socialist Review about politicising this year's Pride season.

We’ve just seen a majority Tory government elected. How will this shape the context of the Pride marches this year and the wider work you are doing through the re-launched Lesbians and Gays Support the Miners (LGSM)?

Nicola: The Tories, who were seen before the election by the bourgeois gay movement as heroes because they brought in gay marriage, have now shown their true colours. The cabinet is full of homophobes, such as the new equalities minister, Caroline Dinenage, who voted against equal marriage.

Citizens and socialists in Hong Kong

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We revisit Hong Kong-based socialist Au Loong Yu to talk about the dangers and opportunities that have emerged from Occupy Central.

What is the state of the Occupy Central movement now?

Many people want to continue the movement but some of the pan-Democratic parties [those who support democratic reform] don’t know what to do practically. The biggest issue is the passing of the bill implementing Beijing’s favoured system of electing Hong Kong’s government.

A socialist case for Ukraine

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On the anniversary of the fall of Ukrainian President Yanukovych, which marked the onset of the current conflict, Rob Ferguson and Tomas Tengely-Evans interview Volodymyr Ishchenko in Kiev.

RF: Volodymyr, there is currently a crisis over the ceasefire in the east and the retreat from Debaltseve. What is your judgement of the crisis in the east of Ukraine?


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