Around 400 workers, previously employed by (Conservative-run) Norfolk County Council-owned company Norse, are threatening strike action due to a dispute about pay and conditions. Environmental service workers, responsible for street-cleaning and park maintenance, are due to transfer from Norse to an arms-lengths company run by Labour-controlled Norwich City Council.
By Sean Meleady
Due to the impact of Covid-19, the University of East Anglia faces an expected £35 million shortfall. One too often neglected aspect of the crisis is the impact it has had on non-academic staff, with UEA having proposed a blanket pay freeze for all its 3,712 staff, alongside offering optional voluntary redundancies and delaying incremental raises for long service.
By Sean Meleady
While Marcus Rashford has been making headlines with the campaign that led to a government u-turn on free meals vouchers, community groups are working hard to make sure that free meals vouchers are provided to families that need them during every school holiday, not just while the Coronavirus pandemic is in the news.
In a left wing social media group I am part of, a member recently asked whether anybody supported Antifa, before continuing on to state that he personally feels that “they sound like the fascists they are trying to rid the world of” and harming the potential of the left. This sentiment was unexpected given the online location. Why do the words “anarchist” and “Antifa” provoke such strong negative reactions?
I keep replaying the same slide show, projecting it on the back of my mind. I see the temperature rising, 9/11, the Iraq war, financial collapse. I enter the ballot box for the first time, eager for change. The coalition forms. Mass extinctions. The SNP wins a majority. Tuition fees triple. The Arab Spring. House prices rise. Riots. The Olympics. Food banks. Austerity. Austerity. Austerity. Benefits slashed. The NHS in turmoil. The Eurozone crisis. Scotland votes for unity. Greece votes for change. They are hung, drawn, quartered. We reach the 1°C threshold. The ballot box takes away a piece of me every single time. The far left brings hope but the far right brings hate. They spread their infectious disease. Storms, droughts, forest fires. Everything I fear begins to materialise in front of my eyes. Refugees fleeing the wars we started but we just condemn them to their fates. Floods everywhere. Terrorism. Xenophobia. Half-truths and outright lies. A vote for fear, a vote for suspicion, a vote for fascism.
The weather joins us in this violence as we drive another dagger into the heart of the world. I tell myself lies to ease the pain, looking for ways to return to the past. Hindsight is 20/20 but we never learn from our mistakes. Hatred and fear, symptoms of this deeply tortured nation. I want to leave this place, I want to end the nightmare, but there is no place on Earth that isn’t infected. I collapse into the carnage. I am in free fall. At the mercy of the past. It’s over.
But it is not over. I will not let it be over.
As Caroline Lucas so eloquently put it, “Climate change is not just another issue that we add to a list of policy areas, it’s the lens through which we see everything, and there is no evidence yet, that that kind of understanding is in Jeremy or indeed the rest of the Labour Party”. The election of Jeremy Corbyn as leader of the Labour Party is something that offers hope to all of us who oppose the neoliberal religion and the brutality of the current government. But even if Corbyn can help break the consensus over austerity, he is both unable and unwilling to promote true ecological sustainability, something at the core of all Green policy.
by Romayne Phoenix and John Rees
by Romayne Phoenix, Chair of the People’s Assembly Against Austerity
Saturday June 20th will be the first time that we can all meet together after the general election and the shocking and unexpected result of the Tory Party in power. This looks set to be a massive demonstration. We need to join up and celebrate the strength of our growing numbers and we need to celebrate each and every successful act of resistance.
by John Rees, member of the People’s Assembly Against Austerity National Committee
There has already been an explosion of protest in response to the threat of an ever deepening austerity programme coming from this Tory government. In Newcastle, Cardiff, Sheffield, Peterborough, and many other places there have been thousands taking to the streets already. In Bristol seven young women, all A-level students, called a protest on a weekday evening and 3,500 people turned up to march through the city centre. But people want a national focus to demonstrate their anger.
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.