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As chair of my Uni’s Green society, I’ve been running the ‘Make Leeds Met’s Pay Fairer’ campaign for a while now. To recap, the campaign is the spinoff of the ‘Fair Pay Campus’ campaign; asking Leeds Metropolitan University (my university) to pay their agency staff the Living Wage of £7.45 an hour. The campaign  also asks for the Uni to reduce their high pay ratio . Currently my university’s pay ratio (the gap between the highest-and lowest- paid staff) is 18:1 though other public bodies, such as the army, and hospitals have pay ratios of 10:1.

Why the campaign is perfect for Universities 

1)      It exposes University hypocrisy. Universities are brilliant at appearing ethical. For instance, the University mega group Million+ states in its 2012 Annual statement that it aims to:

…champion the contribution of universities, students and graduates to a fairer Britain and a more innovative global economy, through evidence based policy and research”.

On its homepage, my University says it is a “People university….a not for profit University with the charitable purpose of advancing education for the public benefit”. And just last week my university launched the Centre for Applied Social Research which aims to “enact social change for the better through high quality research”.  I’ve been in Higher Education for 6 years, and have worked (ok studied) in four different Universities. The majority of academics I have met are liberal and progressive people. They do research into things like sexual violence, peace and conflict and unfair working conditions. For instance, my University has Professor Colin Webster who has documented the ‘low pay no pay’ cycle that the poorest face in Britain. He, like many others in universities, gets inequality. They’re just not great at doing anything about it. This campaign can (start to) change that.

2)      Universities are public bodies funded by public money. Most of Universities’ money comes from tuition fees and HEFCE grants (aka taxes). Students, staff and the community should know about and (more importantly) decide where their money goes.  As public bodies it is our money that is being spent (or more often misspent!).

3)      Universities love research and they love policy that is based on it. The Fair Pay Campus campaign is just that. The Living Wage is calculated by the Centre for Research in Social Policy and the problems of high pay ratios are documented extensively by Professors Richard Wilkinson and Kate Pickett’s research.

Some things I wish I had known beforehand:

1)  Know and rebut your counter arguments. Income taxes reduce pay ratios. This stumped me. But other types of taxes (VAT) increase pay ratios (meaning the net effect of taxes on pay ratios is neutral). In any campaign it is critical to understand the counter arguments.

2) Do the work for them. People are busy and their time is over-stretched. Explain clearly, simply and engagingly what the campaign is, why it’s important and what people can do about it.

3) Exploit your opportunities. My Uni recently launched the Centre for Applied Social Research which aims to do good quality research that benefits society. The Fair Pay campaign is just that. Which meant getting staff to sign petitions was easy. You could also write for your student paper and beg a high-profile academic/politician to launch the campaign. 

Finally, some problems with the campaign:

  • First, the Living Wage (£7.45) is a step up from the minimum wage (£6.19) but it’s not a massive raise. And in some individual’s cases a slight pay increase to the Living Wage may not be better if it means they can no longer claim benefits.
  • Secondly, agency staff face other MAJOR problems (i.e., only receiving measly statutory sick pay and having no guaranteed hours) which the campaign doesn’t deal with. In fact, because the University has to pay an overhead price to the agency, it may be more economical and fairer if the University scrapped agency staff and employed them in-house.
  • High pay ratios and poor wages are a national problem not exclusive to Universities. The campaign could be applied to the public and even the private sector. Fittingly, Islington council have recently dropped its pay ratio with Chief Exec, Susan Leary, receiving £50,000 less pay than her predecessor.
  • Universities have ethical issues beyond their pay. Commodified learning, deals with arms dealers, selling Nestle and sweatshop made clothes etc also need to be tackled.

Sorting out our University pay is one step in the right direction, then. But it’s not the only step we have to take.

Glen Jankowski, Leeds Met Young Greens

 

Looking at George Osborne’s Comprehensive Spending Review announced on Wednesday, it’s very hard to find anyone but losers – except, needless to say, the Cabinet members inflicting the cuts. The so-called ‘winners’ of the spending review – health, education and international development – had little to cheer about. And forus ‘losers’ – i.e. the 99% – there was plenty more to seethe about.Including Labour’s sorry excuse for a response.

Out of the ‘winners’ (in the inewspaper’s words today), we have health, which was given a 0.01% increase in its funding. With rising demand and inflation taken into account however – accompanied by the massive privatisation-by-stealth programme of the NHS ‘reforms’ – health was certainly not a winner. And since the NHS is being forced to find £20bn worth of supposed savings (in reality drastic cuts) in this Parliament, it’s pretty hard to see the health budget as anything other than at death’s door.

Education was apparently ring-fenced (whatever that means) – but with a massive expansion in the free schools programme, which saps millions from local government and segregates our schooling system both financially and socially, Britain’s kids are fundamentally failed by one of the most vindictive budgets in recent years. Yet the education ‘ring-fencing’ claim also misses another crucial point – 600,000 extra children will be forced into poverty by 2015 due to austerity, according to the Children’s Commissioner for England. If schools are the winners (and they aren’t), children are being impoverished at a rate not seen for generations. Indeed, the TUC’s figures show that an extra 180,000 children with public sector parents alone will be pushed under the poverty line in the coming years.

Yet education loses out in more ways than one – and as usual with this government, it’s the poorest students who are hit hardest.  The National Scholarship Programme, a grant system for disadvantaged students, is being cut by £100m – from £150m to just £50m, with the probable effect of returning higher educational opportunity to the dark days of Osborne’s own Bullingdon Club. This, combined with the destruction of Education Maintenance Allowance and the near-tripling of tuition fees, has a pretty clear impact on students like myself. And for those lucky enough to be at university in 2015, universities will have seen their funding collapse by £400m due to central funding cuts and falling demand after the tuition fee rise. Oh, and sorry for more bad news but the student loan book will be privatised. Yup, Wonga could soon own our debt. Cheers, coalition.

Even international aid – surprisingly relatively protected at first glance – is being increasingly diverted to private companies, and potentially even the military under new plans. Aid, instead of being a help to the world’s poor – will become a state hand-out to multinationals in need of a PR boost. Look out for ‘Development – Brought to You By Coca Cola and G4S’.

Of course there were some protected services. The UK’s nuclear weapons system, Trident, will remain unscathed. Our bloated weapon’s expenditure will too be largely unhurt. The salaries, pensions and subsidised bars of MPs will maintain their 24-carrat gold-plated status. And yes, the monarchy’s income is actually on the rise, so no harm done there. The private rail providers will keep their £1bn-a-year state subsidies. You can breathe a sigh of relief now.

Yet despite us facing what the TUC’s Frances O’Grady called last week ‘class war’, it was our Green MP (as well as trade unions), and not Labour, who provided the real opposition to the budget. Caroline Lucas had it right when she said the UK is being condemned to a ‘bleak future’thanks to a ‘weak and discredited’ Chancellor. The solution to the crisis is ‘to invest in jobs – borrowing money based on record low interest rates’, to ‘mount a serious crackdown on tax evasion and avoidance’ and to ‘bring forward green quantitative easing to deliver investment directly into the infrastructure we urgently need for a more resilient, stable economy.’ Thank God there’s at least one voice of reason in the Commons – and hopefully after the next election, there’ll be a few more.

For the time being it’s left to others like Natalie Bennett, Green Party leader, to explain the spending review is an ‘ideologically driven attack on the very fabric of our state’. You won’t hear Ed Balls speaking such home-truths, despite Labour’s own Michael Meacher MP criticising his leadership’s weak ‘too far, too fast’response to the spending review. ‘Labour still has not spelt out a convincing alternative to prolonged austerity’. Wise words from within the party’s own ranks.One tweeter put it even more succinctly – here’s Ed Balls on Wednesday: ‘the cuts are deeper than they need to be’. Ed Balls on Sunday: ‘We’ll be matching their plans’. Jesus wept.

We have a spending review where the supposed ‘winners’ are actually losers, the wealthy remain molly-coddled, and the rest of us continue the pay the price of neoliberalism’s failure. But above all, we have an opposition which doesn’t deserve the accolade. So here’s to the real opposition to endless austerity – the Greens.

Josiah Mortimer is a Green Party activist and student based in York. Follow him on Twitter: @josiahmortimer

So you’re a Young Green, wondering what to expect from your first time at conference.  It can be quite a confusing experience, but a great one if you can make sense of it all.  Here’s a list of things to expect that I wish I’d known about before my first one-

The jargon-

Conference has its own indecipherable language.  I remember voting wrongly at my first conference because I had absolutely no idea what ‘suspension of standing orders’ meant.  It can make participating very daunting, especially when everyone else around you seems to be fluent in conference.  However, anyone on the conference floor will be happy to help if you ask and once you get your head around the terminology, you’ll be chatting about minor textual amendments and points of order like a pro.

The people-

Conference provides the perfect opportunity for some Green Party caricature bingo!  How many socks and sandals can you spot?  Double points for a hessian shirt!

Attunement-

What to say about attunement.  It certainly took me by surprise at my first conference!  It’s a moment of silent reflection at the start of plenary sessions so that members can make decisions with a clear head.  Yeah. 

The crash space-

You might be a bit nervous about crash space, but it sounds more daunting than it is.  In reality, everyone is mostly very respectful of each other, and there are different rooms allocated for different purposes.  So if you don’t fancy staying up until 3am arguing the toss about what Lenin really meant the role of the vanguard party to be (I’ve heard similar!), then you can retreat to one of the spaces designated for sleep.

The plenary sessions-

This is where the main decisions get voted on.  It can be quite hard to keep up at first, but if you team up with a more experienced Young Green, they’ll be happy to keep you abreast of what’s going on.  Reading the agenda in advance can be helpful, making a few notes about your ideas and thoughts as you go along.  That way, you can get a good idea of the motions and seek any clarification before you go into the plenary, and you’ll be more likely to keep up with the debate.

If you want to speak during plenary sessions, then raise your hand and wait to be chosen.  If you are, start by saying your name and party branch before going into the point you want to make.

The workshops-

These are different to fringe events in that they focus on a particular motion in the agenda.  They’re open to everyone and the attendees debate the motion and identify any possible issues or minor textual amendments.  A straw poll is also taken.  This all gets reported back during the plenary session, to feed and inform the larger debate.

The ‘celebrities’-

Don’t be surprised if Caroline Lucas walks past or Natalie Bennett sits down next you in the conference hall.  They really are just ordinary members when it comes to conference, they get one vote the same as everybody else.  In fact, don’t be afraid to have a chat with them.  They’re very approachable and responsive.

If your first experience of conference is anything like mine, I can promise that you will come away feeling invigorated and excited.  The most important thing to remember is to not be afraid of asking for help.  The Young Greens will have a stall somewhere prominent in the conference building, so if you need anything at all, head straight there and you’ll soon be set in the right direction.

Sebastian Power, ex-Young Green committee member and candidate for GPEx International Coordinator, blog for us.

 

There is a growing distinction now between the centrist and right wing parties who condone austerity, privatisation and the entrenchment of neoliberalism and those on the left who are standing with ordinary citizens. The left are rightly refusing to sell off our public services to pay for an economic crisis caused by the very class of people now wanting to make a profit from these services. Now is the time to clearly show that we stand with ordinary citizens in Europe – those who are losing their jobs, their social security and their public services all at once.

 

Strategically, we must also engage with the increasingly dispossessed mainstream if we are to grow beyond our largely environmentally concerned core voters. If we do not demonstrate our understanding of the economic crisis and the pain which it is causing, few will consider us on their side. It is no longer good enough just to talk within our comfort zone of ecology as important as this is. We must engage with people on their terms and talk about what concerns them. This doesn’t mean we lose sight of our long term goals, rather frame present concerns in a way which is conducive to our long term goals of equality, social justice and ecological sustainability. Practically, this means showing we care about our public services, we care about people’s need for decent jobs and decent wages. So we must say this loud and clear at every opportunity and show we have the answers to these problems.

 

But we must also go a step further. We cannot simply react to the current economic circumstances in order to protect what we have. We must start a debate and begin to popularise the idea of economic democracy – worker cooperatives. This isn’t simply a social imperative, but also an environmental one. If we consider the major obstacles to ecological sustainability, they are not, as some people suggest, public opposition to wind farms or solar pv subsidies. The major obstacles are the control multinational corporations wield over our increasingly weak democracies. These corporations have vested short term interests in maintaining investments in lucrative fossil fuels (as well as our literally bankrupt economic system, consumerism etc) and they won’t give up protecting their interests without a fight. In addressing this inequality of power, we must not just argue for abolishing poverty, creating decent jobs and investing in public services. We must also argue for economic democracy so ordinary citizens can decide our future, not a tiny, unaccountable sociopathic elite.

 

So where do the Young Greens (YGs) and the Federation of Young European Greens (FYEG) come into all of this?

 

Well, firstly, young people across Europe are being hit hard. Recent Eurostat data shows the devastating affect the economic crisis and austerity are having on young people across Europe with an average youth unemployment rate of 22% rising to above 50% in countries such as Spain and Greece. Think about that for a second – in Spain half of all your mates would be unemployed. The danger of a lost generation is now a reality and the negative social and psychological affects of this will become deeply engrained in our generation.

 

It is also worth highlighting the impact on certain social groups. The crisis is clearly having a disproportionate affect on ethnic minorities and young women. Recently in the UK 48% of black people, 31% of Asians reported they were out of work (compared to 20% of white people). The Institute for Public Policy Research also recently found that young women with no qualifications are also being disproportionally affected with 46% out of work, up by 18% from March 2008.

 

The mainstream parties have all but abandoned young people. The YGs and FYEG must therefore become the primary forum for dispossessed young people in Europe. We must organise events to discuss our strategies, to further educate ourselves and to get to know each other better. Through these events, we can strengthen the Young Greens and become an integral part of the radical left voice in England and Wales and Europe.

 

I have worked with both FYEG, the EGP and the YGs and intend to continue to do so, using my experience to help the YGs to get the funding we need to strengthen our organisation so we become the radical, popular and active organisation which young people want to get involved with. The YGs must also give young people the confidence, the organisational experience and the knowledge to take the Green Party into the future.

 

The Greens, as a left organisation, must become the foundation from which we can challenge the stranglehold of corporate neoliberalism. We must show ordinary people that we understand their concerns and we know how to address them. We must become the forum from which we can collectively build the democracy and society we aspire to live in.

Leadership Contender Peter Cranie blogs for us on expanding the appeal of the Green Party

Voters know that the Greens stand for the environment. It’s in the
name. If someone votes principally about “environmental issues” from
CO2 emissions to animal welfare, then they are going to vote Green.
While I want us to continue to be the party they support, the very
issues they care about will only be addressed if the Green Party is
recognised as the party of social justice.

I have been and will remain, someone that campaigns against racism,
and I have been prepared to put myself in the firing line to do so. On
the night of the European Election count in 2009, my wife, then 6
month old son and I moved out of our house to stay with my in-laws. We
did so because BNP activists had posted various things through my
front door during the campaign, letting us know that they knew where I
lived. With the result in the balance, and with the last seat going
down to the wire between us and the BNP, I knew what to expect if we
beat them and kept Griffin out of the European Parliament.

Social justice isn’t just a political add on and it sometimes requires
us to put ourselves in the frontline of the struggle. This has to be
at the very core of what we do as a party. We can’t pick and choose
our issues. We have to be a party that protects our individual
freedoms in Britain and does everything we can to address the abuse of
human beings elsewhere. Social justice to me means we must be a party
that speaks frankly about the need for national, European and global
redistribution from the obscenely rich to the majority of humanity,
and we must show “fire in our belly” on these issues.

There are a great many voters who are very close to what we believe in
and what we stand for. Often the barrier can be loyalty to an old
party or individual. There are other people who have given up on
politics. We can and will attract new support from both these groups
but we must provide a vision of politics that inspires people to join
us. We must be angry about the banking system, widespread inequality
and the fact that the unwritten promise, that each generation improves
things a little for the one that follows, has been broken beyond
repair by the current social, economic and political system in our
country.

We need change. It must be radical and it must be decisive. Green
parties in Britain, Europe and around the world are the last best hope
for all of our futures as CO2 levels in Arctic go above 400ppm and
Arctic Sea Ice volume drops below 4,000km3. We don’t want a capitalist
dystopia, and a future where the strong abuse the weak, so we must
fight for the alternative we offer, and we must do so with everything
we can muster in the next few years.

Time isn’t on our side, but I truly believe that I can provide the
vision and the direction our party needs. Caroline Lucas has been a
truly inspiring first leader and no new leader should try to be
another Caroline. I will put my strengths and my ideas to the fore in
this campaign and into the position of leader if you choose to elect
me. If you want to know more, please visit http://www.petercranie.org.uk

The third leadership candidate blog, this time from Romayne Phoenix
 
50,000 students marching on Parliament 10th November 2010 was an event so dynamic and spontaneous that it served to energise and motivate the mood for resistance throughout the country. The spirit of the student revolt pervaded the founding conference of the Coalition of Resistance 27th November, attended by 1300 people, and addressed by a broad range of speakers including Jean Lambert MEP and, with a welcoming video message, Caroline Lucas MP.

A generation of young people who organised with the NUS, UCU, or without, to show their anger and rejection of the government cuts to EMA and university funding and the price hikes in tuition fees, now face a bleak future. Burdened with debt,  reduced employment opportunities and an erosion of rights in the workplace, there remains a housing crisis and those under twenty five could lose all rights to housing benefits even as others are being forced out of their communities due to decreased housing benefit allowances. Many recipients of such benefits are in full time work that is so poorly paid that they cannot survive at such levels.

As for the future of our health? The threat to our NHS is such that all services could be privatised, and those under the heaviest burden of  botched PFI schemes will the the first at risk. Gone would be the founding principles of our National Health Service, where each contributed according to their means and each received care according to their needs.

Young people growing up today are for the first time in decades to be poorer than their parents, and due to the stresses of an increasingly unequal society there are many who will be less healthy and have the prospect of dying younger. Working longer and contributing more for smaller pensions is another form of attack from this government exercising their austerity measures as an answer to tackling the economic situation caused by the banking crisis and subsequent bail out.

Heading a leadership team my aim is to continue working to place the Green Party at the heart of the battle against austerity, privatisation and ecological vandalism. The capitalist approach to business can only exist with the drive to ever increasing growth, and profit margins that can only be plundered from the earth’s resources or by further burdens on a smaller and lower paid workforce. Unemployment is hard wired into such systems and ecological sustainability is an inconvenience to be refuted, dismissed or  ‘buried’ under a slurry of misinformation.

We need  to re-invigorate the campaigning spirit of the Green Party and to increase our activist base. That means spending time and resources to support the development of our local and regional parties in addition to continuing the work that is increasing our electoral successes. 

The membership of the party has grown, the activist base of the party has grown and along with this the electoral and campaigning successes of the party have grown.  It is important that the party has the strategy and vision to build on this, systematically and effectively, through it’s established democratic channels. Will and I are putting a motion to conference to go forward and develop, and put to the party, a membership strategy to secure the future of the party. 

The movement against austerity has begun, but if we do not take responsibility alongside others for building a mass movement that is broad and inclusive, whilst protecting the vulnerable, we will not be there during the debate to put forward our ideas for alternative solutions and narratives for a better future. Building a mass movement empowered to demand a better future for the majority, for all of us, will put the Green Party, our policies and our philosophical basis at the centre of that better future.

Our vision for the party and the the support which we have received from activists, campaigners and political figures from inside the party and out can be found on our website here

 

:http://www.romayneandwillforgreenleadership.org.uk

The second in our series of blogs from Green Party leadership contenders, from Pippa Bartolotti.

I am standing for Leader because I think we need to do some plain speaking. I believe time is running out for both the environment and the economic structures attempting to support us. There is little time left to be reasonable. The precious time we have left should not be spent playing political games, so I shall be unreasonable – unreasonable in my expectations of what needs to be done, because being reasonable hasn’t got us to where we need to be.

Damage and destruction to the environment have become normalised, yet we are about to reach a threshold beyond which biodiversity loss will become irreversible. All indications show that we will reach this threshold within 10 years unless we change the way we do things. We have to change the way humans do business, change the outmoded profit model, outlaw speculation, and establish an ethical relationship between humans and nature.

Everything we have done has prepared us for this moment. We must switch ourselves on and communicate on a nationwide basis. We must set up a public information exchange. Find the people who don’t vote for us, who don’t vote for anyone, but whose minds are opening. We have the knowledge, we have the successes, we have the means. But we are not joined up. Change the way we do things, and we can change the paradigm.

Where the Greens have done well, as in Germany and a few (sadly only a few) parts of the UK, there has been an undeniable and massive effort put in. I believe the vast membership of our Greens need to be rattled and inspired right out of their comfort zones because a few leaflets at election time is not the answer to anything.

The political system has not given us the opportunity to make the changes our beleaguered fish stocks and forests require. We have not been able to provide the poor with a more equitable system. 35 years of trying has not bought our messages into the vernacular of the British public. So right now I am less concerned about votes, more concerned about getting Green Policies out there before the nation. Green growth is progressive, sustainable, locally focussed and clean. I want to shout it from the rooftops.

I joined the Green Party because I fell in love with the philosophical basis, our uncompromising stance in upholding our values, our great strength in putting principle before politics, and if elected as Leader I would uphold hold those core values with all the vigour I possess. To me the Green Party is about more than politics. It is about facing reality, embracing the future and influencing those in power to wake up and do better. It is about engaging the human being everywhere – be it on the doorstep, in the street or in the corridors of corruption. I absolutely possess the will to do all this and more.

I am an outward facing Green with an urgent message and yes, I will annoy people, but a sincere and mature unreasonableness is just what we need.

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