BANANA LINK – THE NORWICH ORGANISATION DEFENDING BANANA WORKERS’ RIGHTS

By Paul Lievens, Banana Link Communications Officer

Bananas have been part of our diet for thousands of years, and are the most popular fruit in the world, with over 100 billion bananas eaten around the world every year. In the UK, each of us eats on average around 10 kg, or 100 bananas, per year. Grown across the tropical regions of the world, banana export production provides an essential source of income for hundreds of thousands of rural households in developing countries. However, many of the plantation workers who produce our bananas fail to earn a living wage and do not have their labour rights respected, while the intensive use of agrochemicals harms the health of workers and the surrounding environment.

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UNITED IN THE FACE OF CRISIS – THE STUDENT LEFT NETWORK

By Bradley Allsop

Make no mistake – higher education in the UK is in crisis. After decades of uncertain policy and three successive Tory-led governments with a clear desire to marketise and corporatise our campuses, we’re left with a generation burdened with debt, with an explosion in mental health issues among students, with universities bereft of democracy and increasingly fuelled by precarious labour, with Students’ Unions that are often little more than marketing arms of their universities, and with continuing inequalities in educational attainment. The passionate learning, debate and inquiry that should be the soul of education has become little more than a thin veneer pasted over profiteering and corporate-style expansion.

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A TRULY RADICAL NUS – BEYOND TUITION FEES #2

By Lewis Martin

It is a time of extraordinary potential for change in UK Higher Education. Labour’s promise to end tuition fees has defied the critics and united many behind Corbyn’s political project. But what will the implications for universities be if this comes to pass? And what can we do to leverage this progress? In this series, the Norwich Radical and Bright Green are bringing together perspectives from across the sector to explore these questions.

Over the last year the NUS has been a shadow of its former self, riddled with accusations of bullying from its President and marked by its failure to engage with the largest upswelling of campus activism this country has seen in years. It was bizarre enough that it refused to back demonstrations for Free Education last year, implying a denial that the end of tuition fees would be a benefit for students. But that pales in comparison to the extraordinary lack of NUS involvement in the recent UCU strikes. While its members joined the picket lines and entered occupation up and down the country, NUS chose to stay silent when our academic staff most needed their support. Continue Reading

BREAK UUK, WIN THE STRIKE – NATIONAL DEMO AT SUSSEX UNI

By Max Savage and Ellen Musgrove

“…in the short term I would be happy to reconstruct a social democratic compromise which aimed to decrease inequalities…I recognise that this will not remove the gross injustices inherent within capitalist structures. To reiterate, capitalism is the enemy, but neoliberalism seems to me to be worse than social democracy. Perhaps we should set our sights a little lower than capitalism and attempt to slay the neoliberal beast.”

– Adam Tickell, ‘Reflections on “Activism and the Academy”’ (1995)

Professor Tickell, once apparently an advocate of radical social reorganisation, is now Sussex University Vice Chancellor and one of neoliberalism’s torchbearers in the UK higher education sector. While it is tempting to conclude from this transformation that Tickle is a duplicitous, cowardly and parasitic individual, there is in fact a larger point to be drawn: very often our politics are not forged by our own choosing but by our position. Once you are earning an obscene salary and have turned a blind eye to staff on your campus earning under the living wage, perhaps neoliberalism isn’t so beastly after all.

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THE LIVING WAGE NORWICH CAMPAIGN

by Nicholl Hardwick

What is the Living Wage Norwich Campaign? Why is it important? What are its benefits to individuals, companies and society? What are our hopes with the Living Wage Norwich Campaign and why does it apply to students too?

These are just some of the many questioned asked in reference to the Living Wage Norwich campaign. I am here to answer and explain those questions and get you involved in Living Wage Week which will  be running from 6th -11th of November.  Continue Reading

YOUNG ONES, PULL UP A CHAIR! HERE’S THE STORY OF HOW YOU SAVED US ALL.

by Natasha Senior

I was considered a youth once, only a few years ago in fact. Yes, I remember those days. Casting my first ballot in 2010 in favour of the Liberal Democrats; the Hung Parliament that resulted; the slight guilt I felt for being complicit in hanging said Parliament. But never fear, I thought, the politicians know what they’re doing. It’s fine. The Lib-Dems have partnered up with the Tories.

But it wasn’t fine, because that whole tuition-fee-£9000-a-year-wtf palaver happened. This is when I felt political disappointment for the first time, and I have most other times subsequently.Continue Reading

IF NOT NOW, THEN WHEN? – STUDENTS AND THE ELECTION #6

from a member of UEA Labour Students

In the midst of multiple crises faced by students, universities and schools, the outcome of the snap general election will be a major indicator of the future of the UK education sector. Each week until the vote we are featuring perspectives from our regular contributors and guests on what the election could mean for students.

Having resolved to sit down today and write this article, I’m struck by the appropriateness of my day. I caught the bus to UEA from outside one of the few remaining Sure Start centres, a public service provided by the last Labour government which has been decimated by the Conservatives (and Liberal Democrats) since 2010. My bus was 40 minutes late, the consequence of a privatised, under-funded service – and even the previously UEA-hosted launderette I went to had been privatised since I last used it. It served as a strong reminder of the power of Labour government to change lives for the better, which contrasts with the crumbling services and privatisation festival that has characterised the last 7 years of Conservative and ConDem government.

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HUMAN RIGHTS — THE PRODUCT OF COLLECTIVE STRUGGLE

by Chris Jarvis

Yesterday was the International Human Rights Day, a brief moment when the world recognises and remembers the value and history of human rights. A central element to the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights — the founding document of contemporary human rights legislation and protection — are the rights of workers. Article 20 of the declaration enshrines the right to freedom of association — the right to join and form trades unions. Trade union rights are further guaranteed through Article 23, which also recognises the right to free choice of employment, fair and favourable working conditions, protection against unemployment, equal pay for equal work and fair remuneration for an individual’s labour.

Traditional narratives around human rights are that they are a result of the work of international declarations, legislative frameworks and statesmanlike politicians. Unsurprisingly, none of these are true. It’s important to acknowledge that human rights, and particularly the rights of workers, have rarely been gifted to us through benevolent leaders. Rather, they have been won after long fought battles and collective struggle.Continue Reading

BURNHAM CAN’T SAVE US: A RESPONSE TO ‘THE BEATING HEART OF LABOUR’

by Chris Jarvis

On August 21st, The Norwich Radical published an article — The Beating Heart of Labour — where the writer endorsed Andy Burnham in the Labour Leadership Election. Over the next 1,000 words, I intend to address the primary arguments in that article and why I believe them to be fundamentally wrong; why I believe Andy Burnham to be just as damaging to the Labour Party, its electoral prospects and likewise the country as Yvette Cooper and Liz Kendall, and why Jeremy Corbyn, albeit far from a political panacea, is without doubt the best candidate in the election and therefore the arguments presented in the previous piece are misguided and wrong.

The first major pitfall of the argument is rooted in what the article itself critiques —  that Corbyn is unelectable. While Senior is right to reject the mythical notion of ‘electability’ as the primary motivation a member should have in selecting one leadership candidate over another, by suggesting that ‘economic credibility’ is central to any successful general election strategy, she fails to dismiss the electability myth for what it is— a rhetorical creation designed by a right wing media and out of touch political commentators to silence radicalism and deviation from political norms. The concept of a candidate or a political perspective as being ‘electable’ as we commonly understand it relies on the assumption that public opinion is somehow unmovable — that the political position of the electorate is largely static, and the role of political parties is to move towards it, and whichever is best and simulating this elusive point of view will win any forthcoming election.Continue Reading

AN OPEN LETTER TO DAVID MCNALLY: MAKE NORWICH CITY FC A ZERO CARBON CLUB

by Rowan Van Tromp

Dear Mr McNally,

I was pleasantly surprised upon hearing the news that Norwich City FC are committed to introducing the living wage — as set by The Living Wage Foundation — to all permanent colleagues across the business by the 2016/17 season, as well as reviewing wage policies of external agencies and contractors who work at the club, to make sure staff also receive the Living Wage by 2016-17. Whilst this is a great step forward in becoming a club that takes its social responsibility seriously, we’re still lagging way behind on environmental sustainability.

One club that’s made huge strides forward in this area is Forest Green Rovers, owned by Dale Vince, the founder of the green energy company — Ecotricity. Since taking over in 2010 the club has implemented many measures to improve their environmental performance and in doing so has achieved the Eco-Management and Audit Scheme (EMAS) — the gold standard for environmental performance, along with international recognition as the world’s leading club in this field.Continue Reading

LIVING WAGE: NOT AN ACT OF CHARITY

by Katy Quigley, UEA Unison Equalities Rep

Over the last six weeks a campaign has slowly taken shape for the Living Wage to be introduced at UEA. Whilst this mainly affects the trade union Unison’s members, the two other trade unions on campus – UCU and Unite – as well as the Union of UEA students, have all begun to work together to ensure that those at the lowest end of the pay scale are paid a fair wage.

With the minimum wage set at £6.50 for those aged 21 and over, many people are confused about the point of a Living Wage campaign, or even what the Living Wage would mean in real terms. The reality is that the minimum wage simply does not pay enough to provide what members of the public, according to research undertaken by the University of Loughborough, deem an ‘acceptable standard of living’. At the moment this is set at £7.85. The Living Wage is not an act of charity: paying workers a fair wage for their living gives them dignity, reduces sickness and absence rates, and improves staff retention rates.  When a business does not pay the Living Wage it is local support groups, council services, and national welfare that pick up more of the bill to top up the worker’s income.

Employers who do not pay the Living Wage are therefore asking people to earn their poverty, and the University of East Anglia is unfortunately one of the culprits.

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LIVING WAGE: ‘WHAT’S GOING ON?’

by Mark Hughes

‘What’s going on’? Was a questioned asked by Marvin Gaye in 1971, when his same titled album was released. It was a question that Gaye raised in his own mind after coming to the conclusion that American society after the Vietnam war had descended into a catalogue of civil right abuses, injustice, and inequality.

In today’s Britain it will not be surprising if the same rhetorical question as once asked by Gaye is still not prevalent amongst the workers of Gt Britain. Standing dazed and blinking as they witness a wave of attacks upon their living standards, pension rights, housing costs, and a whole raft of government measures designed to remove the security of the welfare state. The working people of Gt Britain cannot be blamed for asking the same question, ‘what is going on’?Continue Reading