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Year 2001 No. 119, July 10, 2001 ARCHIVE HOME SEARCH SUBSCRIBE

Lecturers and Staff at Middlesex University Protest at Threatened Compulsory Redundancies

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Lecturers and Staff at Middlesex University Protest at Threatened Compulsory Redundancies

Durham Miners’ Gala

Public Meeting against the Terrorism Act

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Lecturers and Staff at Middlesex University Protest at Threatened Compulsory Redundancies

On the evening of Monday, July 9, over 100 lecturers and non-teaching staff at Middlesex University took part in a lobby of the university’s Board of Governors to protest against the threat of 90 compulsory redundancies and the closure of some courses.

Those protesting carried placards and shouted slogans demanding "No Redundancies", "Protect Lecturers’ Jobs and Students’ Opportunities", "We Want Jobs Not Excuses", "Fight Redundancy" and "Education is a Right not a Privilege". At the end of the protest, 90 balloons were released to represent the 90 threatened posts and the determination of the university staff to fight against compulsory redundancies.

Staff at Middlesex University were joined in their protest by colleagues from other London universities, including Guildhall, the School of Oriental and African Studies and University College. Messages of support were received from unions at the University of East London, Sheffield Hallam University and John Moores University, Liverpool, reflecting the fact that those working in universities throughout the country recognise that they face common problems of redundancies and course closures, a consequence of the crisis in higher education, government under-funding and growing student impoverishment and debt. NATFHE, the lecturers’ union, has estimated that 1,000 academic posts are presently at risk throughout the country particularly at so called "new universities". This reflects a current shortfall of some £473.5 million in government funding for higher education.

The protest – organised by UNISON and NATFHE, the two unions representing the majority of staff at the university – was in response to what is referred to as a "budget rebalancing" exercise by the executive of the university, designed to shift resources from those areas where it is alleged there is "overstaffing" and "budget imbalances" to growth areas such as computing science and business studies. Those working at the university are being offered voluntary redundancy and re-deployment. The lecturers in the School of Humanities and Cultural Studies, for example, are being encouraged to retrain and teach in the School of Computing Science. But the university has made it clear that it will not hesitate to make compulsory redundancies to achieve the necessary "rebalancing of resources".

Unlike many other universities, Middlesex currently enjoys a budget surplus but it is carrying out the current cost cutting exercise in order to make it more competitive in the future. In heated discussions with those protesting many members of the Board of Governors asserted that they believed that the source of the problem confronting Middlesex and other universities is government under-funding of higher education, including the introduction of student fees. But those at the lobby pointed out that if this was the university’s position, then a united struggle could be waged on this basis. Instead the university was attacking the rights of students to the best possible education and threatening to sack its own employees.

The lobby ended in a lively and militant atmosphere and was followed by a social. Both NATFHE and UNISON have now announced plans for balloting their members for industrial action and have made clear their determination not to accept any compulsory redundancies at the university.

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Durham Miners’ Gala

The 117th Durham Miners Gala and Big Meeting is to take place on Saturday, July 14, 2001.

Despite the demise of the coal industry in the North East, the workers’ movement has continued to organise the Gala in memory of all the miners who endured past hardship and in particular those many miners who perished mining coal. At the same time, the Gala has not become a museum piece or simply a family day out. It has continued to represent some of the best traditions of the communist and workers’ movement, and has in recent years been transformed into a militant manifestation of the movement against the anti-social offensive, striving to unite all sections of society in this movement behind the working class and its independent programme.

This year, there will be once again, as is customary, a banner parade through Durham City to the Racecourse, from 9.00 am to 11.00 am. Miners’ banners will be joined by others from the trade union and labour movement. There will be a musical entertainment and, street theatre and rapper dancing preceding the big meeting. Guest speakers on the platform from 12 noon to 1.15pm include Dennis Skinner MP, Mick Rix, General Secretary of ASLEF, Dave Prentis, General Secretary of UNISON and Dr Lynne Jones MP. Following the big meeting, Framwellgate Moor School Brass Band will perform.

Durham County Council’s Arts, Libraries and Museums Department will be providing all-day entertainment, including an exhibition of Side Gallery’s Coalfield Stories, photographic works, book stalls, poetry, historical displays about mining in County Durham, traditional craft demonstrations, children’s art and other activities.

The Northern Regional Committee of RCPB(ML) is organising to participate in the Gala, and will issue a statement calling for the Durham Miners’ Gala to be strengthened as a force for the alternative in society.

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Public Meeting against the Terrorism Act

A public meeting against the Terrorism Act is being organised on Tuesday July 31, 7 pm, at Camden Town Hall

The organisers of the meeting, Campaign against Criminalisation of Communities (Coalition of Groups against the Terrorism Act 2000), point out that the new Terrorism Act could affect a wide range of political activities, including many acts of international solidarity. Some of those most affected are refugee and migrant communities from countries where armed struggle against an oppressive regime is taking place. But not only them – the Act contains wide powers to criminalise groups and meetings, arrest and detain people on suspicion, and hold people for questioning at airports (including British citizens attempting to leave or return).

Passed last year, the Terrorism Act is a draconian measure that puts on a permanent footing extraordinary measures previously reserved for times of emergency. It continues and expands the broad police powers of arrest and detention that have been criticised in the European Human Rights Court and which many now accept resulted in some of the most serious miscarriages of justice in the 1970s. Its provisions could be used against any person or groups involved in political or religious activities and not just against those in proscribed organisations.

The Act extends the definition of terrorism to threats and acts aimed at any government in the world. In March, an Order was passed banning 21 diverse organisations said to be concerned in terrorism directed against overseas governments and making membership and support for these groups a criminal offence punishable with up to 10 years imprisonment. The list includes most of the main Refugee and Migrant community political organisations such as the Kurdish PKK, the Tamil Tigers (LTTE), the Sikh International Youth Federation (ISYF), Kashmiri and Palestinian groups, as well as several Muslim organisations. A number of these groups have large memberships and strong support within the wider community. The members are active in their locality as community leaders, councillors, members of trade unions and other cultural and religious organisations. Yet to be at a meeting with someone who is a member of a banned group can be a criminal offence.

The definition of terrorism in the Act takes no account of a right to defend oneself against violence and repression or legitimate rights in international law to self-determination. The ANC and most other liberation movements would be banned under these provisions and those supporting them would be risking imprisonment for a criminal offence, the CACC points out.

The Campaign against Criminalising Communities is a coalition of migrant community groups, international solidarity organisations, lawyers, journalists and trade unionists. It is campaigning for the repeal of the Act in its entirety, as being a dangerous and fundamentally undemocratic piece of legislation.

It seeks to overturn the banning orders on all 21 groups, and fight any new attempts by the government to ban other groups.

Public Meeting against the Terrorism Act

Tuesday July 31st, 7 p.m.

Camden Town Hall

Further information is available from: Peace in Kurdistan Campaign/CACC, tel 020 7586 5892 fax 020 7483 2531.

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