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Bloomsbury News // January 30th

In this issue: SOAS students vs management and the police / UCL computing staff fight restructuring UCL bosses intervene in student vote / Library shelvers look forward to wage increase / Birkbeck staff for next day of strike action / Birkbeck get in bed with City fat cats / Student activists monitored by terror police / Number of rough sleepers soars as benefit cuts loom / Local residents fight for social housing / Disabled activists shut down Oxford Street

SOAS students vs management and the police
SOAS students’ Union has started a campaign for a more  democratic management structure. There’s plans to have an open  staff-student meeting on Feb 9th to kick off the debate on how exactly  they’re going to go about it and exactly what they’re going to be calling  for. About the fallout from Bloomsbury Social Centre eviction – people  are concerned about the eviction and the fact that counter-terrorism  police were involved with the monitoring of the building. Concerned as  in, rather pissed off. They also passed a “no cops on campus” policy in  response to the imposition last week of a police checkpoint near our  Vernon Square campus, supposedly checking tax discs and driving  licenses, but with the very blatant presence of UKBA officers and clear  racial profiling in the choice of drivers pulled over.

UCL computing staff fight restructuring
Members in Information Services Division have unanimously voted No Confidence  in senior management’s reorganization of their department, vital to all  UCL. The so-called ‘SmartIT’ plans threaten to make dozens redundant and  throw permanent staff onto precarious contracts, all while senior  management spends at least £28K/day on private consultants. An open letter to the Provost on 24 Jan launches their public campaign to defend  jobs and in-house IT services. Please read it on the blog and send messages of support to ucu@ucl.ac.uk. In other news, a general meeting  of the branch voted to tell the UCU bureaucracy that the so-called  ‘deal’ over USS pensions is no deal at all, and not to back down on the  threat to take further industrial action in line with the other unions including PCS, NUT and UNITE. READ MORE >>>

UCL bosses intervene in student vote
UCL union lost the referendum for a vote of no-confidence in the university  provost, a man who lobbied for higher tuition fees, and has previously  described paying the london living wage to the UCL cleaners as ‘a  luxury’. UCL management emailed the entire student body with  questionable pro-provost facts, and ordered security to remove  anti-provost banners and posters. The referendum allowed the union to  take a pro-choice stance on abortion, but did not support the right to  education. READ MORE >>>

Library shelvers look forward to wage increase
Shelvers in Senate House Library should soon be brought into line with  the rest of University of London, and receive the London Living Wage. This is as a result of the Agency Workers Regulations, which came into  effect on 1st October 2011, and which stipulate that ‘temporary agency workers are entitled, after a qualifying period of 12 weeks, to equal basic terms and conditions of employment’. This would mean paying the shelvers in SHL, currently employed via the Step Ahead agency, at least £8.30 an hour, as opposed to the minimum  wage, as at the moment. This is of course great news, especially if it is done by bringing them  in-house, but care must be taken to ensure that the library adheres to the LLW agreement made by the rest of the University, namely that  increased wages would not be funded out of reduced hours.

Birkbeck staff plan for next day of strike action
Following  on from the UCU National  Executive Committee’s decision to go for  another strike on 1 March, the Birkbeck UCU Branch will be meeting on  Monday 31 January to discuss next steps in the campaign. The picket line  during the last strike day on 30 November was the largest and most  militant at Birkbeck that anyone can remember. Hopefully we can match  that on 1st March.

Birkbeck get in bed with City fat cats
Birkbeck management’s love-in with the neo-liberals continues apace. Amongst the  new fellows appointed is one Richard Agutter, former partner in City  accountants KPMG. They have a history of involvement in allegations of  tax fraud in both the UK and USA, including links to the Bernie Madoff  scandal. Agutter’s specialisation at KPMG was in privatisation and he is  now a governor of Birkbeck. Why a privatiser from a firm knee-deep in  the financial crisis is being lauded by Birkbeck management is anyone’s  guess.

Student activists monitored by terror police
The Bloomsbury Social Centre, which was evicted by bailiffs last month,  was described by the police as possibly linked to ‘terrorist factions’.  What factions are these Scotland Yard? The terrorist free dinner  league? The foreign film appreciation army? READ MORE >>>

Number of rough sleepers soars as benefit cuts loom
The soup kitchen behind the American Church on Tottenham Court Road is now  regularly serving more than 100 people each day. This is more than three  times the number of people they were feeding last year. There is a  noticable number of new people sleeping rough on the streets around  Goodge Street with many others having to move out of the area due to  rising rents. The housing benefit caps will exacerbate the housing  problem in Fitzroviawhere most people live in rented housing and have  been here for decades. Yet for homeowners the price of housing continues  to rise with house and flat prices obtaining up to £1,500 per square  foot. A terraced house on Tottenham Street just came on the market for  an asking price of £3.15 million.

Local residents fight for social housing
On Thursday 2 February Westminster City Council will make a decision on  planning permission for the redevelopment of the former Middlesex Hospital site on Mortimer Street. Campaigners have objected to plans  saying the 9 to 11 storey building is too high and does not deliver  enough affordable housing. The Council is likely to demand some more  affordable housing, but a nearby primary school are unlikely to have  their calls for a reduction in height of the building answered. 130 parents petitioned the council saying the building would cast a shadow  over the children’s playground which is the only play space that the  children have in a dense urban environment.

Disabled activists shut down Oxford Street
On Saturday 28 January around 200 people joined disabled activists and UK  Uncut in a protest that brought part of Oxford Circus to a standstill. The protest was in opposition to the Welfare Reform Bill currently  moving through Parliament which could mean £4.5bn cuts to welfare. But UK Uncut say tax avoidance costs the country a staggering £25bn. READ MORE >>>

Get in touch and we’ll put it in our fortnightly bulletin!
bloomsburyfightback@gmail.com / twitter: @bloomfightback

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Bloomsbury Fightback


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