John Riddell: Democracy in Lenin's Comintern

How did Communist parties handle issues of internal discipline and democracy in Lenin’s time? The recent intense discussion within the British Socialist Workers’ Party (SWP) and beyond has heard claims that the SWP rests on the traditions of democratic centralism inherited from the Bolsheviks.

John Riddell: Democracy in Lenin's Comintern

Richard Atkinson: Death and the Bedroom Tax

Some extended thoughts about Stephanie Bottrill, the woman who committed suicide because of the bedroom tax.

Richard Atkinson: Death and the Bedroom Tax

Dave Renton: Who Was Blair Peach?

Today marks the 35th anniversary of the killing of Blair Peach by the police. David Renton looks back at Blair Peach’s life as a poet, trade unionist and committed antifascist

Dave Renton: Who Was Blair Peach?

Bunny La Roche: Nasty Little Nigel gets a rude welcome to Kent

Bunny La Roche of RS21 on Nigel Farage's visit to Kent

Bunny La Roche: Nasty Little Nigel gets a rude welcome to Kent

Financial Appeal

We're up and running! An appeal for funds to kickstart the IS Network

Financial Appeal

Luke Staunton: University of Liverpool, pioneering in all the wrong ways

Submit to DeliciousSubmit to DiggSubmit to FacebookSubmit to Google BookmarksSubmit to StumbleuponSubmit to TechnoratiSubmit to TwitterSubmit to LinkedIn

Liverpool Uni Against Fees and CutsThere is a significant struggle brewing at the University of Liverpool after management have "put a gun to the head" of 2,803 staff (54% of the workforce - almost the entire non-academic staff) in threatening them with dismissal if they refuse to accept an inferior contract that would see the likes of student recruitment, clerical posts, librarians and computer staff working more weekends, evenings and bank holidays without guarantee of recompense.

That such a full-frontal attack is taking place has far-reaching implications across higher education and has already provoked outrage among staff, as well as solidarity from across the country. Those in the University and College Union (UCU) have voted unanimously to ballot for strike action after some of the biggest union meetings for years, while a rally has been called on campus for Tuesday 2 July to bring staff together and build up momentum.

So far management have been intransigent. The arrogance with which they have operated is typified by an article Pro Vice Chancellor Andrew Derrington wrote in the Guardian earlier this year: "If there really is a fundamental difference in outlook between you and the senior management of your university, then someone is not doing a very good job. Are you sure it isn't you?" Many of us may beg to differ given the recent record of university management, including a failed launch of a "University of Liverpool in London" campus and a drop in full-time undergraduate enrolments of 10% in 2012-13.

The arrogance is endemic across management. The main driving force of the attack HR boss Carol Costello boasted in negotiations that she had managed to "standardise" the terms of conditions of 30,000 staff during her tenure at Lancashire County Council. Costello's record as head of HR at Lancashire County Council between 2007-2010 points to a possible long-term plan that sees "standardisation" of pay, terms and conditions of workers as a precursor to outsourcing jobs to private contractors. On the back of attacks on workers in Lancashire a contract between the council and BT subsidiary company One Connect was announced with pious denials of outsourcing:

As a strategic partnership, not an outsource contract, services will stay in Lancashire and their transformation and development will be managed jointly by BT and the County Council. Initial core services taken on by the partnership will include ICT for the County Council and schools, plus back office services for HR, payroll, the customer service centre, and procurement.

It is possible to speculate further. Liverpool City Council contracts some of its core services to another BT subsidiary, Liverpool Direct Ltd, which was revealed to have overcharged the council by £10 million. Suspicions are raised further when we consider the backdrop of wider "redevelopment" in the city, as Private Eye recently reported:

Unesco put the city on its World Heritage in Danger list after the council gave Peel Holdings’ vast £5.5bn Liverpool Waters docklands project, which would change the city’s skyline forever, outline planning permission last year.

Liverpool’s bloated regeneration sector will soon be consolidated into a single Mayoral Development Corporation, doing the bidding of elected Labour mayor Joe Anderson, to oversee the delivery of Peel’s scheme. The board will include Robert Hough, a director of, er, Peel Holdings, Sir Howard Newby, vice-chancellor of Liverpool University, and rag trade millionaire David Wade-Smith, an unelected cabinet member for business. The university is the biggest employer in the city involved in a triumvirate that looks to reshape the fabric of Liverpool for decades, and that means outsourcing jobs and handing over vast swathes of public assets to tax-dodging companies like Peel Holdings. In short: the attack on the 2803 staff at the university is even more important in context.

There is also national context. Sussex University has seen an ongoing battle against the outsourcing of 235 staff including occupations, a national demonstration and the development of a "pop-up union" in an attempt to overcome the bureaucratic inertia of existing unions. A problem that could be replicated at Liverpool where the Unite the Union branch that represents the majority of the 2,803 staff has been sluggish to move despite the anger of the members. Likewise Birmingham University has backtracked on attempts to restructure support staff, which would have placed 361 staff at risk of redundancy or attacks on pay and conditions, after threats of a national demonstration on campus and direct action on university open days.

The University of Liverpool is in a shaky position regarding its coveted Russell Group status and spends excessive amounts on marketing and building projects, which suggests a useful pressure point on management. It is clear management are scrambling to be leaders in the field of the neoliberal university: casualised, outsourced and run for profit not public good, while the contempt shown for the staff who run the facilities, libraries and who support the academics, and without whom the university would not function, is a signal of the direction higher education is heading. Students and staff, academic and non-academics, need to unite against this attack on our whole university community.

Liverpool UCU RAlly

Support our staff: Rally to Defend Education

Tues 2 July, 12.30pm
University Square, University of Liverpool
(bring banners, placards and invite workmates, classmates and friends)

Facebook Group >>

University of Liverpool against Fees & Cuts >>

Further links

Interview with UCU branch president-elect Jo McNeill >>

UCU press statement >>

UCU petition >>

Times Higher Education Supplement (THS) >>

Messages of support have been sent from UCU branches at: Lancaster, UCLan, Salford, Liverpool John Moores, Liverpool Hope, Birkbeck, LSE, UCL, Bournemouth, Northumbria, Liverpool Community College, West Lancs College, Wirral College, Bolton College, NW UCU Regional Council as well as Liverpool TUC, St Helens TUC, Merseyside TUC and Liverpool NUT.

More info here >>

Socialist Worker: Take a Pay Cut or the Sack >>

Garstang Courier >>

Liverpool Echo >>

Liverpool Daily Post >>

Lancashire County Council case study >>

Popup Union >>