THE BLOG
30/10/2013 10:39 GMT | Updated 29/12/2013 05:12 GMT

Students Prepare to Support Education Strikes and Fight Austerity

We've got plenty to fight against. In recent months the Tories have been very keen to talk up the so-called 'economic recovery'. George Osbourne claims that the minimal growth showing in recent figures vindicates his austerity policies. In reality, not only has the British economy barely moved from stationary to first gear.

After three years of Tory austerity which has hit the living standards of ordinary people very hard, the movement to fight back against the enormous attacks we are facing is picking up. This week hundreds of leading student activists will come together at the first ever national Student Assembly Against Austerity to ensure that the student movement plays its full role in this upturn of struggle.

We've got plenty to fight against. In recent months the Tories have been very keen to talk up the so-called 'economic recovery'. George Osbourne claims that the minimal growth showing in recent figures vindicates his austerity policies. In reality, not only has the British economy barely moved from stationary to first gear, but even the very modest improvements in the fortunes of the British economy have only benefited bankers and big business - not the millions of ordinary people struggling to make ends meet.

But the question that millions of people are asking is why should the first beneficiaries of the economic 'recovery' be the very same individuals that caused the economic meltdown in the first place?

Surely public sector workers that have endured massive pay cuts since the economic crisis began in 2008 deserve a well overdue rise in pay? Teachers think so and have already taken strike action, forcing Tory Education Secretary Michael Gove to come to the negotiating table to discuss a resolution to the dispute.

University staff are also taking action this week in a national strike organised by Unite the Union, Unison and the University and College Union (UCU) this Thursday. UCU members in Further Education will also be balloted for action against deteriorating conditions and a pay offer of less than one per cent, well below the level of inflation.

Students must support education workers in this struggle, which isn't just about fair pay but a fight for the future of education and funding. Education should be properly funded and that includes decent pay for all those who teach and work in our schools, colleges and universities. A victory for lecturers and university staff would be a boost for every low paid worker fighting for better pay and a boost for all those fighting against education cuts.

Students' Unions and student anti-cuts groups across the country are mobilising to support the strikes by urging students to join the picket lines on Thursday and not turn up to lectures or classes and study at home instead. This fantastic show of solidarity is exactly what is needed to disarm Tory divide and rule tactics which seeks to pit students against university staff - this unity gives vital strength to all our campaigns to defend education.

The struggles of teachers, lecturers and university staff can provide inspiration and give confidence to students in our fight against the government's attacks on us.

The student movement played a key role in kicking off the fight against austerity in the battle against tuition fees and the scrapping of EMA - but we've not returned to the explosive levels of the 2010 movement. Now, however, we are seeing an upturn on our campuses.

As students step up campaigns against the government's plans to privatise student loans and fight to reverse the rising costs of living that students are facing, the Student Assembly Against Austerity on Saturday 2 November at University College London comes at a crucial time - this is a key opportunity to unite our struggles against fees, cuts and rent rises, for a living wage and against the inequality which goes hand-in-hand with austerity, into a co-ordinated, national movement.

Students in Further Education Colleges have also been leading the campaign to bring back EMA - successfully pressuring 63 MPs to sign an Early Day Motion in parliament. Now Labour's shadow education secretary, Tristram Hunt, has indicated that Labour could reintroduce the grant.

Labour's s hints of reintroducing EMA following the hugely successful student campaign should be welcomed, but we should be clear that it would be wrong to bring back this grant by scrapping other vital benefits. When we continue to spend over £2 billion annually on the unnecessary Trident nuclear weapons system and over £40 billion on military spending, the idea that we would have to cut Winter Fuel Payments to afford the cost of EMA is simply untrue and feeds a narrative of pitting older and younger people against one another.

This also ignores the peer-reviewed evidence from the Institute for Fiscal Studies which states that 'The initial outlay of the EMA policy is likely to be more than recouped' - in effect EMA was good for the economy.

Students will be taking the next steps in the campaign to bring back EMA with a day of action in colleges and a national petition hosted by the campaigning organisation 38 degrees. The day of action on the 5th of November will coincide with actions across the country as part of the Student Assembly Against Austerity national day of action.

The national Student Assembly Against Austerity can play a key role in ensuring that this uncaring government faces a broad and powerful movement of opposition by bringing together all the national and local campaigns against austerity students are leading into a national, united and active movement.

To book your space for the Student Assembly Against Austerity click here.