People’s Agenda profile 13: Campaign Against Arms Trade

17 April 2015: Taking on the arms companies and governments responsible for the arms trade is all in a days work for Campaign Against Arms Trade, they tell us in this thirteenth People's Agenda profile

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peoples agenda

'Earlier this year, CAAT activists infiltrated a black tie dinner for arms dealers and named and shamed all of the MPs and arms companies in attendance. One of our members even managed to give the opening speech.'

The arms trade has a devastating impact on human rights and security, and severely damages economic development. We believe arms exports only reinforce a militaristic approach to international problems.

Arms companies don't care who they sell their weapons to. We work on a number of fronts to put pressure on the government to end arms sales, particularly to human right abusing regimes like Saudi Arabia and Bahrain, and war zones.

We also challenge the arms trade's attempts to legitimise itself by exposing its political lobbying and its sponsorship work with museums and public institutions.

Earlier this year, CAAT activists infiltrated a black tie dinner for arms dealers and named and shamed all of the MPs and arms companies in attendance. One of our members even managed to give the opening speech, which organisers definitely weren't prepared for!

The arms trade enjoys an overwhelming level of financial and political support. We want to that support to be put into promoting social and environmental justice and industries like renewable energy. Shifting priorities would secure green jobs for the future and improve human security rather than threaten it.

To find out more visit: @CAATuk

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People’s Agenda profile 12: National Campaign Against Fees and Cuts

16 April 2015: NCAFC have been active on the streets and on campuses since 2010 fighting for a free and democratic education, they tell us in this twelfth People's Agenda profile

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'We advocate direct action such as occupations, blockades and we are laying the foundations for a student strike in the coming years. We know that those in power won’t just give in if we sit around a table for a couple of hours; we have to build a movement which can sustain itself for years.'

The National Campaign Against Fees & Cuts is a group which campaigns for free education and an end to student debt. We believe that education is a social good and should therefore be publicly-funded, through means of progressive taxation. This means a system of taxation which would tax the wealthiest in society and shift the burden away from hitting the poorest hardest.

We want an education system which is not only economically free for everyone – including international students - from cradle to grave, but is also free from the interests of big businesses and encroaching privatisation, with a liberated curriculum and democratically-run institutions.

We aren’t going to get what we want by asking nicely. We advocate direct action such as occupations, blockades and we are laying the foundations for a student strike in the coming years. We know that those in power won’t just give in if we sit around a table for a couple of hours; we have to build a movement which can sustain itself for years, like that which recently won in Germany, involving not just students but the wider community. We’re in it for the long term – and we hope you will join us!

To find out more visit: anticuts.com

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Peoples Agenda profile 11: London Campaign Against Police and State Violence

15 April 2015: LCAPSV explain how they are campaigning against the Met Police's criminalisation and abuse of black communities, in this eleventh profile in our People's Agenda series

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'We work to collectivise victims and grievances, while the criminal justice system works to isolate us. Our strength is through community solidarity and aiding victims in legal, practical and emotional ways.'

London Campaign Against Police and State Violence (LCAPSV) is a group of mostly African and African Caribbean volunteers campaigning to make the Metropolitan Police end its abuses of power including the criminalisation of Black communities and endemic racist police violence.

We organise through non-hierarchical methods and elected officers. We work to collectivise victims and grievances, while the criminal justice system works to isolate us. Our strength is through community solidarity and aiding victims in legal, practical and emotional ways.

Our methods include: conducting stop and search workshops, organising legal advice for victims and running community groups to monitor repressive policing. We demand an overhaul of the police complaints system, replacing the discredited Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) with an investigatory police complaints board that has confidence from complainants of delivering genuine accountability to victims. We demand a public online register of police officer complaints to create greater transparency regarding complaint resolution. We demand an end to Section 60 stop and searches which do not require reasonable suspicion, and a complete end to the use of TASERS.

Justice should be accessible to all - we demand the full restoration of legal aid and reversal of access threshold changes.

To find out more visit: @LCAPSV

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Peoples Agenda profile 10: Food Sovereignty Movement

14 April 2015: Bringing together hundreds of groups working towards a democratic, sustainable and fair food system is the aim of the Food Sovereignty Network, as explained in this tenth profile in our People's Agenda series

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'The food sovereignty movement in the UK has grown with hundreds of projects thriving across the UK. People who care for democratic, sustainable and fair food systems continue to grow in numbers and commitment.'

The movement members are realising the food sovereignty principles by focusing on food for people, building knowledge and skills, valuing food providers, localising foodsystems, working with nature and calling the government for adequate food and agriculture policies.

Following the successful first gathering of the food sovereignty movement in the UK, we will have the second national gathering on the 23-26 October. The gathering will be a great opportunity to:

· celebrate the strengths of the food sovereignty movement

· build a community of friends and networks

· be inclusive to people who have not yet engaged with food sovereignty

· agree a set of targets and policies to focus on as movement

· create representative, diverse and fair structures with which we can make decisions with as a movement

We welcome everyone who wants to work towards food sovereignty to join the movement and participate in our national gathering.

To find out more visit: Food Sovereignty Now

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Peoples Agenda profile 9: Focus E15

13 April 2015: They grabbed the headlines and put social cleansing on the map last year, but there's so much more in Focus E15's sights, they explain in this ninth profile in our People's Agenda series

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'We won’t stop until we win back the whole of Carpenters Estate and we end social cleansing!'

Focus E15 campaign began life in Summer 2013, when 29 single mothers, all under the age of 25 were handed evictions notices from Focus E15 hostel in Stratford. When they were told they would be housed as far away as Hasting, Manchester and Birmingham a campaign to keep all mothers in London began with occupations of the local housing office and confrontations with politicians like Mayor Robin Wales. Resistance was successful and all 29 mothers were given private rental accommodation in Newham.

But one year private rental contracts just aren't good enough and everyone agreed that we all need stable secure homes; we need social housing! The campaign has now transformed to include anyone affected by the housing crisis.

The main focus of the campaign is to get Carpenters Estate in Stratford filled with people on social housing tenancies. Newham council have been evicting families because of the Olympics to sell it off as prime, London real estate and its currently a ghost town.

Our most high profile tactic so far was to occupy a block of flats on the estate with the help of the local community, to protest the hundreds of council homes being left empty. We were there for two weeks and got amazing media coverage and a visit from Russell Brand! The two week occupation came to a smashing end when the mums from Focus E15 got an apology from Mayor Robin Wales for their treatment and a commitment to house 40 households in temporary accommodation on the estate. Most of the 40 flats have been filled now and that’s 100% down to direct action. But we won’t stop until we win back the whole of Carpenters Estate and we end social cleansing!

To find out more visit: @FocusE15

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People’s Agenda profile 8: Justice for Domestic Workers Leeds

10 April 2015: Joining together means that domestic workers in Leeds are stronger, and campaigning hard, as they explain in this eighth profile in our People's Agenda series

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Photo: Gill Park

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'Justice for Domestic Workers is run by and for domestic workers. We believe that in order to secure our rights we must educate and mobilise ourselves and build links with those who can support us.'

Justice for Domestic Workers (J4DW) was established on March 15, 2009 with a Leeds branch formed in 2013. It is an organisation of Migrant Domestic Workers, mostly women, who work in private houses in the UK. J4DW is run by and for domestic workers. We believe that in order to secure our rights we must educate and mobilise ourselves and build links with those who can support us. As well as speaking out for our rights we support each other practically, find emergency accommodation for those fleeing from abusive employers and pool food and clothing. Together we search for ways to overcome our isolation and vulnerability and demand respect as workers, as contributors to the British economy and society, and as human beings.

On April 6th 2012 the British government removed the right of people on a migrant domestic worker visa to change employers. Domestic Workers are now given a visa that is valid for a maximum of six months and only for employment with a named employer. This has had severe repercussions, denying Migrant Domestic Workers basic labour rights. There is now no protection from abuse and exploitation. We are currently campaigning for the restoration and expansion of the previous immigration system governing Migrant Domestic Workers.

To find out more visit: Justice for Domestic Workers Leeds

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Peoples Agenda profile 7: Sisters Uncut

9 April 2015: After shutting down Oxford Street on Valentines Day, Sisters Uncut talk about the need to keep fighting cuts to domestic violence services in this seventh profile in our People's Agenda series

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'We demand an end to all cuts to domestic violence services and restored funding where necessary. Safety is right, not a privilege, and we’ll keep fighting until this becomes a reality for all.'

On February 14th, hundreds of women joined hands and brought all traffic at Oxford Circus to a halt. We are Sisters Uncut – a group of self-defining women who have come together to take direct action against the fatal cuts to domestic violence services.

In a country where 2 women each week are killed by their current or former partner, it’s a travesty that refuges are forced to turn women away as they seek safety.

So we’re fighting.

Our message to those in power is this – these cuts are sexist. Austerity is making it harder for women to leave dangerous relationships and to live safe lives. We’re taking a stand against these cuts, and taking action against austerity.

We’ve put together our own agenda. We demand an end to all cuts to domestic violence services and restored funding where necessary. Safety is right, not a privilege, and we’ll keep fighting until this becomes a reality for all.

Expect vibrant and creative protests as we raise our voice against closures to domestic violence services.

Austerity cuts are ideological, but cuts to domestic violence services are fatal. This is just the start – let’s put an end to this.

To find out more visit: @sistersuncut

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Peoples Agenda profile 6: Ritzy Living Wage campaign

8 April 2015: Thirteen days of strike action in the space of five months convinced Ritzy cinema staff of the need to get organised at work, they explain in this sixth profile in our People's Agenda series

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peoples agenda

'We know from experience though that in the end workers need to organise themselves to win these basic rights and others, that is the only answer.'

We, as workers at The Ritzy Cinema, took 13 days of strike action last year over 5 months in our struggle with our employer Picturehouse Cinemas for the London Living Wage, eventually securing a 26% pay rise over three years.

The current National Minimum Wage is £6.50ph. The Living Wage is £7.85 an hour outside London and £9.15 and hour in London. This gulf between the legally enforceable Minimum Wage and the actual rate people need to have a basic, decent standard of living is scandalous.

Politicians and business people regularly appear on television to stress that they support the Living Wage but only as a voluntary scheme. Low paid workers are tired of being told to put up with poverty pay by people who earn 10 times the Living Wage or more.

The National Minimum Wage should be set at the level of the Living Wage by law, this is a basic human right. It is also makes sound economic sense: low paid workers pay taxes which support public services and spend their money which stimulates economic activity. The rich move their money off shore and hoard it.

We know from experience though that in the end workers need to organise themselves to win these basic rights and others, that is the only answer.

To find out more visit: @ritzylivingwage

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Peoples’ Agenda profile 5: Unite Hotel Workers

7 April 2015: Organised hotel workers draw on inspiration from their counterparts in New York, in this fourth profile in our People's Agenda series

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'Hotel workers in NYC have the best terms and conditions in the world. Their starting rate is $24 (£16) per hour. They achieved this through solid workplace organising and wider community support and direct action. If they can make it there we can make it anywhere!'

The Unite the Union hotel workers branch has been going strong for ten years. We have 1000 members which is a sizeable number but considering that 100,000 people work in the London hotel industry, we still have a long way to go. We want union access and recognition, the best pay (Living Wage as a minimum) and conditions possible, and a total culture change which right now is described by workers as slavery, and rife with exploitation, zero hours and precarious work, bullying and fear.

We believe in equality, grassroots member-led action and democracy, and being part of social movements. Our members have been active in anti-war and anti-austerity protests, we see ourselves as part of a UK and international movement for economic, social and climate justice.

Our tactics include: workplace collective actions, pickets and protests, regular advice surgeries, conferences and training, the use of social media, performance and art including a comic drawn by one of our leading members, former room attendant Barbara Pokryszka, plus outreach to other campaigns and community groups. We are also establishing HEAT teams – Hotel Employee Action Teams – across major hotel chains. These are workplace activist committees modelled on the New York union Unite Here!'s experience.

Want to find out more? @hwunite //  https://www.facebook.com/hotelworkersunite

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Art failure: the battle at the National Gallery

4 April 2015: Nim Ralph reports on how workers at the National Gallery are fighting back against privatisation

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Visitors to the National Gallery in London’s Trafalgar Square in recent months have seen pickets and other protests as well as paintings, as staff have taken action over the privatisation of services. Members of the PCS union have taken action, following a nine-to-one vote in favour of strikes, as a consequence of National Gallery trustees moving to outsource its 400 gallery assistants to a private company. The dispute has been exacerbated by the suspension of one of the union’s senior representatives.

The action at the National Gallery is part of a wider battle to run our major cultural institutions in the public interest rather than for private profit. The Gallery currently employs 400 passionate, trained and highly knowledgeable workers to look after its paintings and the six million people who come to see them each year. Most are on low incomes. Some earn only the minimum wage after the Gallery reneged on a promise to introduce the London living wage, meaning it is the only major museum or gallery in the capital that does not pay it.

But what they lack in income, they make up for in knowledge. They add to the public experience and understanding of thousands of paintings and artworks representing over 800 years of human culture, craft and imagination. Privatisation threatens that experience and knowledge as well as the workers’ terms and conditions of employment.

At the beginning of March the workers went on a second five-day strike, during which they took 250 people to the Getty gallery to find the National Gallery trustees’ chair Mark Getty, co-founder of the Getty Images photo agency, and present an alternative to the trustees’ plans. This takes into account many of the trustees’ priorities for the Gallery, including increased opening hours, but keeps its public sector workforce. Getty wasn’t available, just as he hadn’t been available during the previous strike a month earlier. That had culminated in a 40,000-signature petition being delivered to the National Gallery and later presented to the Department for Culture, Media and Sport.

Pouring fuel on the fire, the night before the strike the Gallery suspended one of the union’s senior representatives, Candy Udwin. She had been involved in Acas-facilitated discussions, following which she was accused of ‘breaching commercial confidentiality’ because she raised questions about the cost of using a private company, CIS, to cover in‑house support throughout the strike. PCS general secretary Mark Serwotka has condemned what he describes as ‘cynical, trumped-up charges’. He says that by suspending a lead negotiator in this manner the Gallery is sending a strong message to other staff to keep their heads down or receive similar treatment.

PCS culture sector president Clara Paillard says that the dispute illustrates everything that wrong with public arts and culture policy at the moment: ‘Boards of millionaire trustees running our public institutions, corporate greed taking over the public interest, exploited workers expected to pay for the bankers’ crisis. Fortunately, more and more people are on our side and I hope they’ll see the light and abandon this ludicrous enterprise.’

Support for the strikers has come from a range of high-profile commentators and artists, from Russell Brand and David Shrigley to Ken Loach and Bob and Roberta Smith. Jon Snow recently tweeted: ‘As a former trustee, I’m shocked that our key duty, safeguarding the art, is to be done by private contractors.’

All of the National Gallery’s services are going out to tender in April – something that no other major public arts institution has attempted. The entire Sainsbury wing is already overseen by the private security company CIS. Polly Toynbee revealed in the Guardian that one Gallery trustee she spoke to had admitted this had been done ‘to give the gallery staff a fright’.

As Toynbee pointed out, in theory employment transfer regulations mean that current employees must be taken on by the new employers on the same terms. However, there’s no obligation to keep them in the same role, and as CIS’s business offer is mostly non-sector specific security, the current specialist staff at the Gallery could end up being moved to hotel receptions or post-room management.

The tender would also be up for pitches from an array of private companies, which could include G4S. This means that the Gallery staff could even be expected to work in detention centres, car parks or anywhere else that they have contracts. That’s not the sort of visitor service that most people would have in mind from one of the world’s leading art galleries.



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