Widespread support for Grove Academy staff fighting to save their school

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“If it hadn’t been for this school I would have ended up in prison” were the words of one former student who came to support the picket line on Thursday 20th June, the third day of strike action by mangers of the NEU, NASUWT and Unison at the Grove Academy, a pupil referral unit facing potential closure after funding cuts from North Yorkshire County Council.

Iain Dalton, Socialist Party North Yorkshire organiser

Socialist Party members from Harrogate and Leeds joined the picket lines once more to stand shoulder to shoulder with workers fighting the impacts of austerity.

There has been tremendous support from across the education sector locally with a UCU rep from Harrogate College (themselves on strike over cuts last year joining the picket line) and a march around the 6 Harrogate secondary schools that refer students to the Grove seeing head teachers from those schools supporting the strikers and speaking to the media calling for the Grove to be saved.

The immediate threat to the school is that North Yorkshire County Council is cutting £2m from is budget for pupil referral units across the county, without any plans or proposals for how this will effect the services provided by places like the Grove. But as the Grove is part of the Delta academy chain, NYCC are refusing to discuss with the unions claiming their dispute is only with Delta.

After losing 25% of its budget in 2018, the Grove now faces losing a further 25-40% of its budget which is clearly unsustainable. NYCC claim to have alternative provision plans but refuse to share these with anyone!

A further 3 days of strike action has been called for next week to continue the pressure to demand a fully-funded service at the Grove. The strike shows the need for a reversal of the cuts to education by central government and the reintegration of the fragmented education system, with decisions about schools and their funding under the democratic control of staff and parents.

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Teachers and support staff strike to Save the Grove

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Lively picket line as staff strike against redundancies and to Save the Grove

A lively picket of staff at Harrogate’s Grove Academy (a unit educating vulnerable secondary pupils), took place on Thursday 13 june despite the pouring rain.

North Yorks County Council have created the major funding gap which has already resulted in children losing places. NYCC has twice delayed producing a plan of action without which the unit risks closing by Christmas. The strike was supported by NEU, NASUWT, Unison and parents. The protest continued in the town centre with many shoppers stopping to sign the petition.

Kevin Pattison, Leeds Socialist Party

Harrogate NSSN Public Meetings Discussed Fight Against Austerity

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Harrogate NSSN meeting

Some of the attendees at the Harrogate NSSN meeting, which included trade unionists at Harrogate College, health and local government workers as well as students.

The first National Shop Stewards Network meeting took place in Harrogate on Wednesday 27th June, bringing together local trade unionists in dispute against the effects of austerity.

Iain Dalton, Socialist Party North Yorkshire Organiser

Johnathan Leng, from Harrogate College UCU, opened the discussion about their recently concluded dispute over cuts at the college. UCU members had taken three days of strike action to fight these attacks.

As Johnathan explained, central government is pushing for a turnover to staffing ratio of 65% in colleges, whilst schools usually have 80%+. This has seen savaging cuts to courses at the college, to the extent the college may have to hire new staff in September in order to deliver courses.

Throughout the dispute UCU at the college grew by 25% and strike action had saved some jobs as well as seen one bullying manager go (with staff cheering and singing in delight!)

However, the college’s future still is uncertain, with it being disaggregated from Hull College Group and likely to be taken over by one of the other local FE colleges, all of which have also proposed ‘restructuring’ of their own recently.

Adrian O’Malley, Unison SGE member for Yorkshire and secretary of Mid Yorkshire Unison branch, speaking in a personal capacity, outlined the battle against the formation of ‘Wholly-owned subsidiaries’ in a number of hospital trusts across Yorkshire. The first in Yorkshire was established just under a year ago in Barnsley, with Airedale and Harrogate hospital trusts following this March, and more being proposed in a further 7 trusts across the region.

There are a number of reasons why NHS trusts are establishing such companies, including an attempt to avoid VAT charges which the NHS pays but private hospitals are exempt from. But the biggest threat to workers and the public is the further fragmentation of the NHS and threat to workers pay, terms and conditions as well as the creation of a two-tier workforce. There has also been no funding provided to pay the recently announced NHS pay rise to staff in the already established ‘Wholly-owned subsidiaries’.

Adrian’s branch, Mid Yorkshire Unison, was one of four which recently organised a co-ordinated ballot across West Yorkshire for strike action. Unfortunately, a number of them fell foul of the Tories’ latest anti-union laws, where whilst recording 90%+ votes for strike action, failed to reach the 50% turnout threshold, including by an agonising 3 votes in Bradford.

Mid Yorkshire Unison, however, recorded a 58% turnout with a thumping majority for strike action, the looming threat of which has forced their trust to offer potentially significant concessions. This has led to postponement of strike action for now, with management having a two-week deadline to put forward proposals that will involve keeping staff in the NHS and no two-tier workforce.

Although the local RMT rep gave his apologies, due to speak about the dispute over the introduction of driver-only operation by Northern Rail, a lively discussion was had, including the need for more communication between trade union branches and activists in the town. In the absence of a local trades union council, many branches can often be unaware of disputes in the town.

One suggestion was for people to subscribe to the NSSN’s weekly bulletin which contains news of trade union campaigns and disputes across the country. You can subscribe at https://lists.riseup.net/www/subscribe/shopstewardsnet

Strikes Against Cuts Continue at Harrogate College

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Harrogate College UCU picket line – Thursday 17th May – photo with thanks to James Paylor

Staff at Harrogate College have been back out on strike for two further days of strike action on 17-18th May as part of action across the Hull College Group. UCU members taking strike action have also been joined by some Unison members refusing to cross the picket lines, leading to the library service being shut on the Friday.

Iain Dalton, Socialist Party North Yorkshire Organiser.

College management have been in the press making the ludicrous claim that there will be no effect on provision. Yet there will be no full time HE courses, no staff in the library before midday, no security staff and in whole departments, such as Art, will have no staff left!

Student support was prominent again, with many signing the petition against the cuts, and students with some creative placards (reflecting the impact on their lecturers) on the picket line such as ‘Stop Targetting Hardworking Staff’, ‘What About the Next Generation?’ and one simply containing the name of the cuts package – ‘Fresh Start’ – and a cartoonish turd!

With the cutbacks at the College, plus the threat to remove guards from Northern Rail which is the bulk of services to Harrogate, and the establishment of a ‘Wholly-Owned Subsidiary’ and proposed closure of the Briary wing at Harrogate Hospital – there is a real threat of important services disappearing from the town.

But such college cutbacks are not just unique to Harrogate & Hull. UCU members in Leeds took part in a joint protest with other trade unionists over cutbacks there, and have won ballots at Kirkless and Bradford colleges recently, with Bradford UCU members due to strike on 23d May.

The battles against taking place across the FE sector need to be linked up, challenging the underfunding of the sector which is driving its current increasing commercialisation.

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Socialist Party members join UCU members on their picket line outside Harrogate College on Friday 18th May – photo Harrogate SP

Harrogate College Staff Strike Back Against Cuts

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UCU pickets and supporters at Harrogate College – photo Iain Dalton

UCU members at Harrogate College took strike action, co-ordinated with their colleagues in the Hull College Group at Hull College, against proposals to axe jobs at the college. Wednesday 9th May, was the first strike day with two more to follow next week.

Iain Dalton, North Yorkshire Socialist Party Organiser

Many staff members are worried that the college will be spun off yet again, after being passed from Leeds Met (now Leeds Beckett) to Hull College Group several years ago, with the campus now reduced in size. So far management have produced no timetable for how or when they are going to implement the proposed cuts in Harrigate.

The strike action was taken in the face of a hostile management who are seeking to undermine the campaign against the cuts in various ways. Students who are backing the strike have been told to delete social media posts and, like at Hull College during their protest against the cuts, subsidised ice cream and pizza was made available in the college on the strike day.

The strike received strong support from students with many joining the picket lines to support their lecturers and lots signing petitions against the cuts. Local Socialist Party and Labour Party members also came down to join the pickets.

UCU members were pleased with the support they received, including visits from local Unison reps who are also balloting their members for strike action. Despite the intimidation, staff are determined to fight the cuts.

 

Stop the Cuts at Harrogate College

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Huge cuts are planned across the Hull College Group, of which Harrogate College is part of. On hearing about these cutbacks, Harrogate Socialist Party has sent the following message of support to UCU and Unison members at Harrogate College who are fighting these cut backs. Socialist Party members in Hull are also involved in campaigning against the cuts to the college there through their leadership of Hull TUC.

Dear UCU and Unison members at Harrogate College,

Socialist party members in Harrogate are alarmed to hear about the plans to cut 231 staff of 30% of the workforce across the Hull College Group including at Harrogate College. One of our comrades from the Leeds Socialist Party branch met some of your members at the recent Yorkshire & Humber TUC conference in Harrogate and relayed info and your leaflet back to us.
We understand you have already had a lunchtime protest and we will fully support any further actions staff and/or students take part in. We are happy to publicise any activties you may organise in the campaign against the cuts and hope to join you on them.

Yours in solidarity,

Harrogate Socialist Party

Staff demand right to work for NHS at Harrogate Hospital

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Protestors gathered outside Harrogate District Hospital against the transfer of 340 staff to a ‘Wholly Owned Subsidiary’ – photo Iain Dalton

Over the course of around an hour and a half over 50 people joined the protest in snowy weather outside Harrogate Hospital against the forced transfer of 340 staff to a ‘Wholly Owned Subsidiary’ on Thursday 1st March.

Iain Dalton, Socialist Party North Yorkshire Organiser

Alongside Socialist Party and Labour Party members and Unison officials, different sections of staff, including nurses and clerks unaffected by the proposals came out to join the protest on their lunch breaks.

Harrogate, is one of a number of hospital trusts in Yorkshire that is pushing ahead with transferring estates and facilities staff (such as catering, domestics, porters etc) into private companies they have set up (referred to variably as Wholly Owned Subsidiaries or Special Purpose Vehicles).

Barnsley has already gone down this path, and made attacks on the terms and conditions of staff in this company, whilst Airedale trust was due to transfer it’s staff on the 1st March as well, with proposals not far behind in Huddersfield and Calderdale, as well as York NHS Trusts.

3,000 people have signed an online petition against the proposals set up by Corbyn supporters in Harrogate Labour Party, whilst staff voted by 97% to reject the proposals in a consultative ballot and are now balloting for strike action.

 

Fire Crew Reductions in North Yorkshire Reversed

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Harrogate Socialist Party members campaigning against the cuts during the 2015 consultation.

At the North Yorkshire Fire Authority meeting on 13th December, the decision was taken unanimously to reverse the decision taken three years ago to reduce crewing of Tactical Response Vehicles (TRVs) to just three firefighters. This vehicles will now return to a minimum crew of four.

Iain Dalton, North Yorkshrie Socialist Party Organiser

This is a victory for all those who have been campaigning over this issue for the last two and a half years. Socialist Party members across North Yorkshire, played a crucial part in building public opposition to these proposals when they were first announced, particularly in Harrogate where we held stalls alongside local FBU activists.

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Campaigning with North Yorks FBU branch chair Simon Wall against the cuts in 2015.

This decision, however, doesn’t fully reverse the cuts, as the TRVs themselves were newly introduced in 2015, replacing large, more fully equipped fire engines, as well as following from a reduction of 50 firefighter posts lost between 2010 and 2015.

Nevertheless, FBU members and other involved in the campaign will be celebrating a setback for the austerity agenda in this largely Tory-dominated county.

Rail strike against Driver-Only Operation solid in Harrogate

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Harrogate Socialist Party’s Paul Viney joins RMT pickets on strike against the introduction of driver-only operated trains – photo Harrogate RMT

Of the 11 RMT members that are guards at Harrogate station, all went on strike against Northern Rail, for the 3 days. Simon Black the RMT Branch secretary was up beat with the response of the members and the response to the picket line of the public. Speaking to the people who took the RMT leaflet at the picket line, nearly all were sympathic for the need for guards on the Trains.

Paul Viney, Harrogate Socialist Party

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RMT pickets outside Harrogate railway station – photo Harrogate RMT

Harrogate Marches Against Trump Visit

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Protesting Trump's planned state visit in Harrogate - photo Iain Dalton

Protesting Trump’s planned state visit in Harrogate – photo Iain Dalton

Harrogate protest against Trump may have been organised by a veteran peace activist, but it was young people who dominated the event on Thursday night.

Harrogate Socialist Party

Not only were they the loudest voices on the short march along Parliament Street, but several school students spoke before the march expressing their opposition to Trump’s racist, sexist and LGBTphobic agenda.

Socialist Party & Socialist Students placards at protest against Trump's planned state visit in Harrogate - photo Iain Dalton

Socialist Party & Socialist Students placards at protest against Trump’s planned state visit in Harrogate – photo Iain Dalton

Iain Dalton, spoke at the demo on behalf of the Socialist Party, highlighting that Teresa May thought that linking up with Trump would strengthen her, but it could turn out to be her achilles heel.

Iain called for further protests on 20th February when the now around 2 million string petition calling for a cancellation of Trump’s state visit is debated in parliament.

But he also called for students to organise and walkout out on ‘Day X’ (the day of Trump’s visit) if it went ahead. Many students came up to both Iain and our stall at the event expressing their agreement and pledging to join the walkout.