Promoted by David Beale, 36 Pleasant View, Withnell, Chorley PR6 8SE on behalf of Martin Powell-Davies of TUSC.

Sunday 12 December 2010

Building student and trade union unity

After Thursday's vote on the tuition fees - and the police attacks on kettled protestors - I visited the Student Assembly in London to participate in the discussions as to the next steps for the campaign against both fees and cuts to the EMA.

There were a whole range of issues being debated - including the democratic structures for the movement and the tactics when faced with police intimidation on demonstrations.

A campaigner from the 1990/1 poll tax campaign explained how a 'Labour Movement Enquiry' was held into the police actions at the end of the Trafalgar Square demonstration which exposed the real events of the day - and suggested something similar might be organised to investigate police actions on the student demonstrations.

I spoke to point out that the police may have hoped that their tactics would dissuade campaigners from coming on future demonstrations - but that they would fail. I proposed that students approach trade unions to call on them to participate and steward  in future demonstrations and, in particular, call on teachers and parents to attend jointly with students and school students. If, as was being discussed, a Saturday demonstration is called in February, then trade unions and schools should be able to mobilise in large numbers.

There was some discussion about simply building for the March 26th TUC demonstration - but I hope that students will agree that their campaign must maintain momentum and build for a further mass education demonstration before then.

Speakers from the National Shop Stewards Network also encouraged students to attend the NSSN anti-cuts Conference on January 22nd to build links with trade unionists.

What's clear is that the best student activists are looking to build links with trade unions. With the UCU now looking to ballot for strike action in late January, a complete education shutdown through joint  UCU/NUT action in March is a real possibility. It's another reason why the January meeting of the NUT Executive needs to vote for an early ballot for action. A delay, leaving the UCU, and perhaps the PCS, to take action alone, would be a mistake for the pensions campaign - and also miss a real opportunity to show students and school students that unions were following their lead with joint action across the education sector.

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