The call came and I was told that my second period of furlough had ended. I would return to the workshop for three twelve and a half hour shifts per week, 7am to 7.30pm. The week my boss called, I’d been rereading Gravity and Grace by Simone Weil (1909-1943). Weil was a philosopher who worked in temporary teaching jobs, often being run out of town for her trade union-organising and activism. By the time of her death, Weil had built up a body of idiosyncratic, unorthodox, mystically-inclined theological writing, posthumously collected in Gravity and Grace. I read the final section, ‘The Mysticism of Work’, the day before my return to the workshop. After sitting in my room for three months, going back to such long days would be hard physically, which made it hard mentally; I didn’t want to do it, but I had no choice. At least I’d be able to search for Weil’s mysticism of work.
It was apparently a victory for Remainers when the High Court ruled that invoking Article 50 will require a full parliamentary process. The judges issuing the verdict were branded as tyrants by the tabloids — as if they were doing anything other than interpreting law. David Lammy — the MP for Tottenham, where 75% of the constituency came out in favour of the EU — declared he would block Brexit. He is the political Schrödinger’s cat, he behaves both democratically and undemocratically at the same time: vowing to uphold the wishes of his constituents against the wishes of the country. A majority of politicians don’t have the luxury of having voted the way their constituents did. Perhaps they would argue it differently, that they were democratically elected to represent their constituents, not vote with their constituents. It seems like a tenuous technicality but one that appears to stand up to scrutiny.
I guess it depends on what democracy really means. I’ve said the word so many times, I don’t even know anymore.
by Ella Gilbert and Francis Bell
Bartenders, waiters, baristas and other hospitality workers have one thing above all else in common: we are over-worked, under-paid and misrepresented. We are both bartenders, and we deal with drunken idiots, entitled twats, and aggressive yobs on a daily basis. Woman bartenders also have to deal with unwanted sexual advances and harassment, comments about our clothing choice, and implicit assertions about who we are and what we’re doing there. Despite all of this, we value our work, and we want to do it well – for those that actually appreciate what we’re doing, and for those that are well-behaved and fun to spend time with.
All of these things were important at the inception of the Norwich Bartenders’ and Hospitality Union. Norwich has a pub for every night of the year, as well as its fair share of cafés, restaurants, hotels and other service industry employers. We are committed to a multi-faceted approach to the hospitality industry: we want to improve our members’ skills and create a pool of people who are committed to, and good at, their jobs. We also want to challenge the daily issues faced by workers in the sector – discrimination, low pay, difficult customers, demanding management and limited employment rights. On top of that, we want to educate people in the sector on their rights and represent them in any employment disputes or grievances that arise with their employers. In that regard, we’re committed to forming positive relationships with management, rather than antagonising them, and demonstrating that the NBHU is a collection of workers who really care, and are the kind of employees you want, and need, to run a business in Norwich.
by Norwich Claimants Union (NCU)
The Norwich Claimants Union represents the coming together of claimants, workers, union representatives and city councillors to oppose and intervene in government policy regarding the deliberate and calculated erosion of the welfare state. To achieve this, the government supported by the mainstream has demonised claimants. They have become the scapegoat for our failing economy and societal degradation.
Since the recession of 2008 this campaign against claimants has gathered momentum. However it is worth remembering that the recession, bank bailouts and austerity programs was the result of the miss selling of financial products, namely derivatives. The effect was to transfer wealth away from our financial system and into the hands of a relatively small number of ruling capitalist elite.
by Elliot Folan
Last month, it was revealed that UEA plans to raise accommodation fees for university students by up to 9%. Students have already come forward to say that they would not have been able to afford the new prices, and the students’ union has raised questions about accessibility and affordability. Yet the second big story of the fee rise is an issue of democracy. It was reported – and the university declined to deny – that student union officers were told they would not be consulted on the fee rise, and that the university had no intention of consulting them at all. In other words, on an issue that is of material concern to thousands of new and continuing students on our campus, management felt it necessary to completely ignore and override the wishes of our elected representatives.
Such contempt for democratic procedure is standard practice at UEA, and they speak to a wider problem of opaque decision making and lack of accountability on our campus and in the university system generally. There are three more examples of such undemocratic decisions.