From the growth in food banks to the Bedroom Tax, 2013 was in many ways and for many people in the UK a year to forget. There are, however, many moments from the last twelve months worth remembering for all the right reasons. So, to celebrate the end of the year Red Pepper has picked out a few of its favourite campaigns and victories of the last year.
On July 31 the High Court ruled that the Secretary of State for Health, Jeremy Hunt, had acted unlawfully in attempting to cut services and close departments at Lewisham Hospital. Three months later, on October 29, Hunt’s appeal against the decision was rejected and the original judgement upheld.
The court ruling represented a major victory for all those involved in the Save Lewisham Hospital campaign—a coalition of community campaigners, hospital workers and supporting organisations—which has for over a year been holding regular meetings, demonstrations, days of actions, vigils and engaging in a number of creative stunts (The hunt for Hunt) to protest against service reductions at a hospital that is not in financial difficulty and is considered high achieving.
The largest demonstration was held in Lewisham on January 26, attracting over 25,000, a remarkable number for a local issue campaign and the largest local demonstration in defence of the NHS in British history. The success of the Save Lewisham Hospital campaign, which is wholly against the privatisation and marketisation of the NHS, is a testament to the power of community organising in the face of austerity and a rare highlight in a year that has witnessed the acceleration of cuts to public services across the country.
One of the most widely reported on and exciting industrial campaigns in the UK of the last few years, the 3Cosas campaign was launched over a year ago to fight for sick pay, holidays and pensions for outsourced cleaners at the University of London (UoL) and has displayed a consistent and unwavering militancy, a remarkable feat considering that not only are the outsourced cleaners at the UoL highly precarious but almost all are immigrants, few of whom speak English.
Following a two-day strike on November 27 and 28 the employer of outsourced cleaners at the UoL, Balfour Beatty Workplace, announced concessions over sick pay and holiday pay. Although not in line with those received by directly employed staff these improved terms represent a major victory for a campaign that, although appearing as an overnight success, is a product of exhaustive organising and confidence building.
Impressively, despite its recent success, the 3Cosas campaign has recently announced a three-day strike for the 27, 28 and 29 January 2014, beginning what will they hope will be a year as successful as the one that preceded it. The demands for the January strike are not only the third ‘cosa’, pensions, but also union recognition for the Independent Workers Union of Great Britain—the syndicalist union which represents the majority of outsourced cleaners at the UoL—and guarantees of job security for workers at the Garden Halls accommodation, which the University is closing for refurbishment.
Militant, creative and technologically savvy, the 3Cosas campaign, it has been suggested, provides a vision for the labour movement that moves beyond the conservative approach it is today overwhelmingly associated with.
Below is Novara Media’s report from a 3Cosas demonstration held at Senate House on October 24, followed by the video appeal to donate to the online strike fund that made financially possible the recent victorious November strike.
Blacklisting hit headlines in 2009 following a raid by the Information Commissioner’s Office on the offices of the shadowy Consulting Association, who, it turned out, were being paid by companies for ‘intelligence’ on workers who were later denied work for demanding adequate health and safety standards on site and general union activity.
Frank Morris found himself in precisely this situation when in September 2012, after raising concerns about health and safety on site, he was sacked from his job on Crossrail by his employer, the Bam, Ferrovial and Kier (BFK) consortium.
Yet as Ewa Jasiewicz explained: ‘taking the fight to the gate, often on his own, he spent six months protesting before Unite’s organisation and leverage department began an anti-blacklisting campaign to get his job back and union access onto all Crossrail sites’.
A combination of lobbying and participation in government select committees by Unite alongside rank and file direct action involving the blocking of roads in London and Manchester cost BFK not only its reputation but over £1 billion in lost work. Better still, in September of this year Frank Morris was reinstated.
The fight against blacklisting, however, is far from over. Formed in the aftermath of the raid on the offices of the Consulting Association and organised and led by blacklisted workers, The Blacklist Support Group is now leading the charge against those companies that engage in this systematic practice of disciplining and exclusion.
Much has been written on the decline of the student movement following the explosion of activity that followed the Government’s announcement in 2010 of plans to raise the cap on tuition fees to £9,000. Despite mass mobilisation, fees were raised and the student movement lost. Or so the story goes.
Although the last two years have been a relatively quiet period for student activism in the UK the closing months of 2013 suggest that something may be brewing once more.
At the beginning of December over ten universities, from Birmingham to Liverpool and beyond, were simultaneously occupied by students. Students at the University of Ulster are still in occupation, despite University management cutting of power and water.
The spate of occupations, although at an organisational level unrelated, appear to share a common set of demands that transcend any immediate single issue. The overriding focus, however, is undoubtedly on the privatisation and marketisation of universities and its corrosive effect on campus community life and academic integrity.
As befitting a more comprehensive vision for the future of higher education students across the country are increasingly supporting workers’ struggles. In contrast to 2010, links between students and campus workers are becoming increasingly visible, perhaps nowhere more so than at Sussex University, where for over a year students under the rubric of ‘Sussex Against Privatisation‘ and the infamous Occupy Sussex have been campaigning against the outsourcing of hundreds of campus jobs, even assisting in the creation of a campus-wide ‘pop up union‘. More recently, the occupation of Senate House by students at the University of London (UoL) was launched off the back of the 3Cosas strike victory and had as its first demand that the UoL and Balfour Beatty Workplace provide all outsourced cleaners with pensions, sick pay and holiday pay in line with that of in-house staff. ‘Workers and students, unite and fight’ is increasingly finding form in more than mere rhetoric.
Informal, horizontal, flexible and non-dogmatic are words so far used to describe the networks of student activists that are increasingly asserting themselves on campuses across the country. Although activity has largely been localised the #march25 national demonstration against outsourcing and privatisation at Sussex University, the recent #copsoffcampus demonstration at the UoL and simultaneous demonstrations held in solidarity in Leeds, Manchester and Sheffield, amongst other universities, hints at the capacity of these networks to coordinate on a national scale.
Although concrete victories for the student movement have been sparse in recent years, and 2013 was admittedly no exception, the wave of occupations and protests that have swamped university campuses in the UK of late, and more importantly the resurgent networks that organised them, are reason enough to hope that 2014 will be different.
Below is a video from the #march25 national demonstration at Sussex University followed by You and I Films‘ video report from the #copsoffcampus demonstration held at UoL on December 11.
Grassroots posters giving an alternative take on the general election
Hundreds of people surrounded the fences this weekend. Hera Lorandos spoke to women who have suffered inside.
Laying out the case for Labour's leadership of a Progressive Alliance, Jeremy Gilbert argues that far from posing a threat to the Left, the Progressive Alliance offers a golden opportunity to end Tory rule and build a 21st century government committed to social justice
The Greens have stood down in Brighton Kemptown to clear the way for Labour, and the Lib Dems won’t stand in Brighton’s other seat, Green-held Pavilion. Davy Jones, who would have been the Green candidate in Kemptown, says this shows the way forward
The snap general election represents a unique opportunity to defeat this terrible government. We believe that visual artists have a crucial role to play!
Drax is the UK's biggest source of CO2 emissions – and we're paying for it, writes Almuth Ernsting
For the past 3 years, Barby Asante and members of London-based artists' collective, sorryyoufeeluncomfortable, have been responding directly to the vision of James Baldwin. Ahead of the nationwide release of a new film about the American activist and author, they reflect on the enduring relevance of Baldwin in Britain today.
Housing campaigners' gains in Bristol are spurring on a national movement to build a renters' union, writes Stuart Melvin
A new Espionage Act threatens whistleblowers and journalists, writes Sarah Kavanagh
We need an anti-austerity alliance, not a vaguely progressive alliance, argues Michael Calderbank
Greece’s heavy load
While the UK left is divided over how to respond to Brexit, the people of Greece continue to groan under the burden of EU-backed austerity. Jane Shallice reports
On the narcissism of small differences
In an interview with the TNI's Nick Buxton, social scientist and activist Susan George reflects on the French Presidential Elections.
Why Corbyn’s ‘unpopularity’ is exaggerated: Polls show he’s more popular than most other parties’ leaders – and on the up
Headlines about Jeremy Corbyn’s poor approval ratings in polls don’t tell the whole story, writes Alex Nunns
The media wants to demoralise Corbyn’s supporters – don’t let them succeed
Michael Calderbank looks at the results of yesterday's local elections
In light of Dunkirk: What have we learned from the (lack of) response in Calais?
Amy Corcoran and Sam Walton ask who helps refugees when it matters – and who stands on the sidelines
Osborne’s first day at work – activists to pulp Evening Standards for renewable energy
This isn’t just a stunt. A new worker’s cooperative is set to employ people on a real living wage in a recycling scheme that is heavily trolling George Osborne. Jenny Nelson writes
Red Pepper’s race section: open editorial meeting 24 May
On May 24th, we’ll be holding the third of Red Pepper’s Race Section Open Editorial Meetings.
Our activism will be intersectional, or it will be bullshit…
Reflecting on a year in the environmental and anti-racist movements, Plane Stupid activist, Ali Tamlit, calls for a renewed focus on the dangers of power and privilege and the means to overcome them.
West Yorkshire calls for devolution of politics
When communities feel that power is exercised by a remote elite, anger and alienation will grow. But genuine regional democracy offers a positive alternative, argue the Same Skies Collective
How to resist the exploitation of digital gig workers
For the first time in history, we have a mass migration of labour without an actual migration of workers. Mark Graham and Alex Wood explore the consequences
The Digital Liberties cross-party campaign
Access to the internet should be considered as vital as access to power and water writes Sophia Drakopoulou
#AndABlackWomanAtThat – part III: a discussion of power and privilege
In the final article of a three-part series, Sheri Carr gives a few pointers on how to be a good ally
Event: Take Back Control Croydon
Ken Loach, Dawn Foster & Soweto Kinch to speak in Croydon at the first event of a UK-wide series organised by The World Transformed and local activists
Red Pepper’s race section: open editorial meeting 19 April
On April 19th, we’ll be holding the second of Red Pepper’s Race Section Open Editorial Meetings.
Changing our attitude to Climate Change
Paul Allen of the Centre for Alternative Technology spells out what we need to do to break through the inaction over climate change
Introducing Trump’s Inner Circle
Donald Trump’s key allies are as alarming as the man himself
#AndABlackWomanAtThat – part II: a discussion of power and privilege
In the second article of a three-part series, Sheri Carr reflects on the silencing of black women and the flaws in safe spaces
Joint statement on George Osborne’s appointment to the Evening Standard
'We have come together to denounce this brazen conflict of interest and to champion the growing need for independent, truthful and representative media'
Paul O’Connell and Michael Calderbank consider the conditions that led to the Brexit vote, and how the left in Britain should respond
On the right side of history: an interview with Mijente
Marienna Pope-Weidemann speaks to Reyna Wences, co-founder of Mijente, a radical Latinx and Chincanx organising network
Disrupting the City of London Corporation elections
The City of London Corporation is one of the most secretive and least understood institutions in the world, writes Luke Walter
#AndABlackWomanAtThat: a discussion of power and privilege
In the first article of a three-part series, Sheri Carr reflects on the oppression of her early life and how we must fight it, even in our own movement
Corbyn understands the needs of our communities
Ian Hodson reflects on the Copeland by-election and explains why Corbyn has the full support of The Bakers Food and Allied Workers Union
Red Pepper’s race section: open editorial meeting 15 March
On 15 March, we’ll be holding the first of Red Pepper’s Race Section open editorial meetings.
Social Workers Without Borders
Jenny Nelson speaks to Lauren Wroe about a group combining activism and social work with refugees
Growing up married
Laura Nicholson interviews Dr Eylem Atakav about her new film, Growing Up Married, which tells the stories of Turkey’s child brides
The Migrant Connections Festival: solidarity needs meaningful relationships
On March 4 & 5 Bethnal Green will host a migrant-led festival fostering community and solidarity for people of all backgrounds, writes Sohail Jannesari
Reclaiming Holloway Homes
The government is closing old, inner-city jails. Rebecca Roberts looks at what happens next
Intensification of state violence in the Kurdish provinces of Turkey
Oppression increases in the run up to Turkey’s constitutional referendum, writes Mehmet Ugur from Academics for Peace
Pass the domestic violence bill
Emma Snaith reports on the significance of the new anti-domestic violence bill