The purpose of this blog is to provide analytical commentary on formal and informal labour organisations and their attempts to resist ever more brutal forms of exploitation in today’s neo-liberal, global capitalism.

Tuesday, 20 March 2018

‘We shall strike, we shall fight, water is a human right!’ Defending public water in Ireland.

When the Irish government decided in 2013 first to establish the company Irish Water and then introduce water charges for users in order to comply with obligations of the Memorandum of Understanding with the EU over its bailout agreement, resistance erupted across the Republic. While resistance against austerity had been isolated and sporadic in Ireland until then, a large, national level movement emerged in 2014. Water had been the straw, which broke the camel’s neck. In this blog post, based on interviews conducted during field research in Ireland between 25 February and 2 March 2018, I will analyse the broad alliance underpinning this movement as well as the specific strategies employed.

Friday, 16 March 2018

UCU’s ‘Syriza moment’: Putting university managements on notice!

Despite strong support from the Greek people, in July 2015 the Greek government by Alexis Tsipras gave in and accepted major further austerity measures in exchange for a third bailout agreement with the Troika, consisting of the European Commission, the European Central Bank and the IMF (The Guardian, 13 July 2015). Against the background of a bitter dispute over cuts employers in British Higher Education (HE) want to impose on the USS pension scheme in pre-1992 universities (see Britain: Universities on Strike), here too, UCU negotiators felt they had no other option but to accept an agreement, which involved major cuts (see UCU ‘agreement’, 12 March 2018). Nevertheless, pushed by its members, UCU ultimately did not buckle and rejected the ‘agreement’. In this blog post, I will analyse the underlying reasons for this different outcome.

Sunday, 11 March 2018

Asserting power: The political economy of USS pension fund valuations.

The University and College Union (UCU) and the employers’ organisation of pre-1992 Higher Education institutions UUK are currently involved in an industrial conflict over plans by the employers to impose draconian cuts to the USS pension scheme. At the heart of the conflict is the valuation of the fund in 2017 by USS, apparently revealing a large deficit of about £6 billion, which needs to be addressed. In this post, I do not want to engage in economics arguments over how big the deficit actually is. Rather, I will focus on a political economy analysis of the actual struggle over who is in charge determining the criteria for the valuation in the first place. The valuation of the health of the fund is not an objective, economic task. It is ultimately a political decision on how to estimate the risk and especially on how to spread the risk across staff and employers

Thursday, 8 March 2018

Striking for USS: four ways university managements have misjudged the situation.

The University and College Union (UCU) and the employers’ association for pre-1992 institutions UUK are currently locked into a bitter battle over pensions in the UK Higher Education sector. Overall 14 days of strike action have been scheduled for February and March (see Lecturers on strike). To the surprise of the employers, support for lecturers on strike has been strong resulting in a fragmentation of UUK. The University of Oxford is only the latest in a line of universities changing their position (The Guardian, 7 March 2018). In this blog post, I will identify four ways in which the employers have seriously misjudged the situation.