Students demand free education and an end to the pay cap on Leeds budget day protest

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Protest hears speeches at Leeds Uni before marching into town

Leeds For Free Education jointly with University of Leeds Socialist Students organised to protest yet another austerity budget brought in by a government so out of touch with its populace they recently claimed there were no unemployed people in the UK.

Abigail Braybrook, Leeds Uni Socialist Students & Iain Dalton, Socialist Students Yorkshire Organiser

The main topics of Wednesday’s protest were free education and an end to the public sector pay cap (a cut in real terms) with speakers from University College Union and Leeds For Free Education at the University of Leeds campus, a lively and very loud march through the city centre and ending with speeches by Kate Youngs, Royal College of Nursing student rep on national trade union committee, Claire Laker-Mansfeild, Socialist Students national organiser, and a amazing young speaker from Huddersfield Kirkleeds College.

In the run-up to the protest, Socialist Students had collected hundreds of signatures of students and staff calling for a Labour amendment to the budget for Free Education. Whilst unfortunately Labour didn’t challenge the Tories on this issue in parliament – we did force a supportive response out of one of our local MPs.

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Fight for Free Education: Join the budget day protest

This article first appeared in the Socialist.

Ever since June’s snap general election, the Tories have been running from one crisis to another, after Jeremy Corbyn’s radical manifesto proved far more popular than their brutal austerity policies. Key in this was Corbyn’s pledge to end tuition fees from September 2017 if Labour won, winning the support of many young people who face a lifetime of debt.

Socialist Students has met thousands of students over the course of this year’s freshers events interested in making that pledge and others in the manifesto a reality.

That’s why Socialist Students has written to Labour’s shadow education secretary Angela Rayner calling for them to put a free education amendment to the Tory budget. And we’re also organising for direct action to take place across the country on budget day, 22 November, in support of this demand.

Maddy Steeds from Leeds University Socialist Students said: “We believe education is a right not a privilege. Increasing tuition fees are pricing people out of education and saddling students with tens of thousands of pounds of debt. This, paired with the cuts to all sectors, means university graduates are increasingly sucked into a debt trap. We need change now.”

On 22 November, we’ll be marching in Leeds for free education. In the meantime we’re lobbying our local Labour MPs to get them to back a free education amendment, with an online petition and campaign stalls on campus.

But we also see the need to link up with others fighting the Tories’ austerity – which is why we’re linking our demonstration with the fight to smash the pay cap, including with unions in the education sector. A defeat on any of these issues has the potential to bring May’s rotten government down – let’s fight to make 22 November the end of austerity.

Leeds Socialist Students marks International Safe Abortion Day

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Socialist Students members mark International Safe Abortion Day with a protest on Parkinson Steps – photo Iain Dalton

On Thursday 28th September, Leeds Socialist Students and affiliated groups came together to mark International Safe Abortion Day. As Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland have not yet afforded their female citizens the right to legal abortion, Leeds Socialist Students placed this particular group of females at the forefront of their minds.

Eleanor Noyce, Leeds Uni Socialist Students

Speakers Amy Cousens, of the Women’s Lives Matter movement in Doncaster, and Tanis Belsham-Wray, member of the Socialist Party and former Women’s Officer at Leeds Trinity University, spent a few minutes discussing their involvement with the wider women’s emancipation movement. Amy spoke of the need to further change on a local level, highlighting the need for a more progressive approach of the Labour Council in Doncaster towards wider women’s issues, such as domestic violence.

Both Tanis and Amy spoke of the struggles undertaken by Irish women in their search for a legal right to abortion. It is possible to travel across the border receive treatment. However, at present, the NHS only covers the cost of abortion for Northern Irish women, and not for women travelling from the Republic of Ireland. Thus, thousands of women pay out of their own pockets to receive treatment. This right is fundamental: Leeds Socialist Students extends its solidarity not just to the women suffering across the water, but to women all over the world who have not yet been afforded this right.

Solidarity with the student strike in Catalonia

Tomorrow, on Thursday 28th September, students in Catalonia will be striking in defence of democratic rights and the attempts of the right-wing PP government of the Spanish state to block the planned 1st October independence referendum. For more information, please see a translation of a the statement by the Sindacto de Estudiantes (Students Union) who have called the strike – http://www.socialistworld.net/index.php/188-catalonia/9441-spain-catalonia-students-strike-called-against-state-repression. Below is a copy of the short message of support sent by Leeds Socialist Students.

“All our support to our comrades in Sindicato de Estudiantes from Leeds Socialist Students. Though our struggles differ, our aims are the same, we stand with you.”

Abigail Baybrook, President – Leeds University Socialist Students

Freshers 2017: Lots of interest in Socialist Students

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Socialist Students members at Leeds Beckett Headingley campus freshers fayre

Socialist Students had one of our best freshers ever in Leeds with stalls at Leeds University, Leeds Beckett University and Leeds Arts University during freshers week.

A Leeds University, well over 185 people left their details to get involved seeing out support for Corbyn and Free Education on our stalls being a real attraction. Over 25 turned up to our intro meeting on ‘What is Socialism?’ and we are hoping for even more new people to attend out second meeting this week and our abortion rights solidarity demo this coming Thursday 28th September.

Iain Dalton,
Socialist Students Yorkshire Organiser

No to the Sackers’ Charter

Socialist Students is appalled at Leeds University management’s plans to change the university’s charter to worsen protections for staff. These include creating a catch-all term to dismiss staff (‘Some Other Substantial Reason’ or SOSR), the removal of an independent legally qualified chair for most dismissal appeals and the removal of a medically qualified chair for panels deciding upon ill health dismissals. This has quite rightly being dubbed a Sackers’ Charter by UCU.

Socialist Students fully supports UCU members in taking strike action against such attacks and we will be joining them on the picket lines when they take strike action on 11-13 October.  We believe our union, Leeds University Union, should be taking a stand against the Sackers’ Charter and in support of staff and the strike action by UCU. Socialist Students will be campaigning for them to adopt such a position.

Whilst such strike action will disrupt lectures and other academic activity, we feel this is a minor price to pay compared to what could happen as a result of the Sackers’ Charter being adopted and staff who fall foul of ‘third party pressure’ (such as government agencies or corporations unhappy about the conclusions of academic research) or a ‘conflict of interest’ (such as whistleblowers making the public aware of wider concerns) which would disrupt our studies far more.

This should not be seen as an isolated issue, but one part of a wider series of attacks on higher education, through funding cuts, the introduction of the so-called ‘Teaching Excellence Framework’ and ever increasing tuition fees and student debts. We believe a mass campaign opposing these attacks needs to be built which rallies around the demands for free education, raised in the recent general election campaign by Jeremy Corbyn.

Leeds University Socialist Students

Please sign the online petition by UCU against the Sackers’ Charter – http://speakout.web.ucu.org.uk/university-of-leeds-statutes-no-sackers-charter/

Organising to Walkout Against the Trump Agenda

Leeds Socialist Student's Dump Trump banner on a recent demo - photo Iain Dalton

Leeds Socialist Student’s Dump Trump banner on a recent demo – photo Iain Dalton

On the 15 th of February, Leeds Socialist Students members organized a meeting to discuss a possible walkout action across schools and universities if Donald Trump was to be granted a state visit to the UK.

Jack Niddrie, Leeds Beckett Socialist Students

The meeting met a good response with some new students from Leeds University attending as well as a younger student from Harrogate. The wide variety of age groups encouraged us to start planning for leafleting and collecting walkout pledges starting immediately next week during a local anti-Trump demonstration.

The interest in Trumps politics needs linking this to similar policies closer to home such as the crises within the NHS and  the plight of refugees in Calais.

A general walkout by students and young people, like the student protests in 2010, was decided as the best way to easily organize and engage people with a physical protest.

The state visit, put on the agenda by a popular online petition, is to be debated in parliament on the February 20th at which point it will become clear when the state visit will take place. When we do know, socialists up and down the country can start to plan action for a mass walkout.