Support the doctors at Leeds General Infirmary this week. On Wednesday 9th and Thursday 10th March from 8.15 am until around 11am there will be a demo at the mini roundabout outside Jubilee Wing/A& E supporting the main picket of junior doctors. The Leeds UCU banner will be there! If you can get to St. James they will be gathering outside the main entrance from 8am until 12ish.
Also on Thursday 10th March from 5-7pm outside LGI help join hands and bunting round the LGI in defence of our NHS and in support of the NHS reinstatement Bill. Meet at the entrance to Brotherton Wing opposite Millennium Square. The Bill aims to stop privatisation, restore the Secretary of State’s duty to provide a comprehensive, national health service, get the market out of health and deal with ludicrous PFI debts, which are bankrupting hospitals. Bring banners, placards, etc.
All welcome! Thanks to Leeds Keep Our NHS Public for the information.
UCU contributed to the Leeds university ‘Students Not Suspects Tour’ debate in the Conference Auditorium on 1 March. Lesley McGorrigan, UCU NEC member and local Campaigns Officer addressed the meeting alongside Moazzam Begg, former Guantanamo prisoner, detained for two years without charge and Rahmaan Mohammadi, school student questioned for campaigning for Palestinian rights.
The meeting discussed the ramifications of the ‘War on Terror’ and its use in legitimising and further propelling the pro-war agenda by ‘othering’ and scapegoating Muslims at home and abroad. The meeting heard some of the of victims’ tragic experiences of Islamophobia alongside ramifications of the ‘Prevent’ duty in undermining academic freedom and the relationship of trust between staff and students.
Section 26 of the Counter-Terrorism and Security Act 2015 includes a duty for public bodies including colleges and universities to have ‘due regard to the need to prevent people from being drawn into terrorism’. In schools, colleges and some Universities this has led to a new culture of stifling debate and democratic expression for one section of our society in particular, Muslims. For example:
A conference on Islamophobia at Birkbeck College, University of London was shut down.
A Muslim student on a counter terrorism MSc course at Staffordshire University was referred to Prevent on the grounds that he was reading a book on terrorism studies in the university library. He was questioned about his attitude towards homosexuality, ISIS and Al Qaeda.
A 14 year old pupil used the term ‘ecoterrorism’ in a class discussion as an example of environmental activism and he was taken out of class and questioned about his views on terrorism and ISIS.
A 10 year old child misspelled terraced and wrote that he lived in a ‘terrorist house’; his parents were called in for questioning.
These are just a few examples in which Prevent has taken action and found no threat of terrorism. All that resulted was that the pupils and students referred felt nervous and frightened about what they can and cannot say or do. There was consensus at the Leeds meeting on the need for student and staff unions to unite in challenging this McCarthy style legislation.
Many staff enthusiastically joined in writing their valentine messages on heart shaped stickers for the Vice Chancellor on Friday 12th February. Here’s the inside of the Valentine’s card towards the end of the lunchtime session:
The card, and a lovely chocolate heart inscribed with the words “We’d love a pay rise” were taken to the VC on Friday afternoon. Sadly, he was too busy to see us, but we understand he likes chocolate, and we hope he enjoyed reading your messages.
The serious point of course is that university staff have suffered real terms pay cuts for some years, and it’s time we caught up. It’s been in the news recently that many Vice Chancellors have seen considerable pay rises, so it seems only fair their staff are treated similarly. UCU hopes that university employers, including our own university management, will see the sense of this and agree to a fair pay rise in the imminent 2016 pay negotiations.