Posts Tagged ‘tuition fees’

Homes, Health, Jobs, Education, Iran, Palestine & Topshop

Saturday, April 16th, 2022

Homes, Health, Jobs, Education, Iran, Palestine & Topshop – Saturday 16th April 2016 was another busy day for me in London.


March for Homes, Health, Jobs, Education – Gower St

The Peoples Assembly Against Austerity march demanding an end to privatisation of the NHS, secure homes for all, rent control and an end to attacks on social housing, an end to insecure jobs and the scrapping of the Trade Union Bill, tuition fees and the marketisation of education.

The march was a large one, with the crowd filling across the street for around a quarter of a mile well before the start and at times it was slow to move through the crowd to get to a stage where there were a number of speeches, including from Ian Hodson, Baker’s union (BWAFU) General Secretary and Kate Hudson of CND before the march set off.

Eventually the march did set off, and I went with it taking pictures for some distance, working my way towards the back of the march before leaving to take the tube to Charing Cross to be in Whitehall before the start of the rally.

March for Homes, Health, Jobs, Education


Ahwazi protest against Iranian repression – Parliament Square

I’d expected to find the next protest at Downing St, but there was no sign of it when I arrived, but I saw them marching a short distance away and ran and after and caught up with them shortly before they reached Parliament Square Ahwazi Arabs in London were demonstrating as they have done every April since 2005 in solidarity with anti-government protests in Iran on the anniversary of the peaceful Ahwazi intifada in 2005 in which many were killed and hundreds arrested by the Iranian regime.

Ahwaz is a mainly ethnically Arab province that was invaded by Iran in 1925 and ten years later incorporated into the state, given the name Khuzestan in 1936. Since then the state has persecuted the Ahwazi attempting to eliminate their culture and have brought in many Persian settlers. The motive for the conquest was undoubtedly the rich oil reserves which were for many years exploited by the British Anglo-Iranian Oil Company which became BP in 1954.

There have been many anti-Iran protests and insurgency since 1925, and in April 2005 there were four days of widespread peaceful unrest put down by the Iranian military with at least 12-15 deaths and many injuries and arrests. A similar uprising at the time of the 2011 Arab spring was also brutally suppressed, and the repression of the entire community continues, with arbitrary arrests and executions.

Ahwazi protest against Iranian repression


Homes, Health, Jobs, Education Rally – Trafalgar Square

I walked back up Whitehall to Trafalgar Square which was now packed with marchers from the Peoples Assembly Against Austerity march demanding an end to privatisation of the NHS, secure homes for all, rent control and an end to attacks on social housing, an end to insecure jobs and the scrapping of the Trade Union Bill, tuition fees and the marketisation of education.

Many of the marchers had placards and posters calling for Prime Minister David Cameron, ‘Dodgy Dave’ to resign, and there were a number of pigs heads referring to his initiation in a bizarre ritual at the notorious Oxford dining society, the Piers Gaveston, where, according his unauthorized biography by Michael Ashcroft, as the Daily Mail put it “the future PM inserted a private part of his anatomy into the animal’s mouth.”

At the rally there was a long succession of speeches, including by then Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell, Green Party Leader Natalie Bennett, Len McCluskey General Secretary of Unite and others, some of whom I photographed. But more interesting is perhaps my picture of Danielle Tiplady, a leader of the Bursary or Bust campaign looking rather like one of the lions as she talks with Natalie Bennett.

Homes, Health, Jobs, Education Rally


Dancing for Homes, Health, Jobs, Education – Trafalgar Square

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I drifted away from the rally as the speeches continued, it seemed forever, to the North Terrace from where I could hear music. There were some of the marchers preferred to dance to the ‘dig it sound system‘, which carried a message from Tom Paine: “The World is my country – All people are my brethren – To do good is my religion“.

Not that the speeches that I heard were not interesting, but there were just too many different things covered by the People’s Assembly March, and while their causes were all legitimate and demonstrated the terrible suffering this immoral government for the wealthly was inflicting on the majority population, it had just gone on (like the government) far too long.

Dancing for Homes, Health, Jobs, Education


Palestine Prisoners Parade – Trafalgar Square

Also on the North Terrace were a group of people who had taken part in the People’s Assembly March dressed in clown outfits as the Palestine Prisoners Parade. They attracted attention with juggling, hula hoops and speeches to the often arbitrary detention without proper trial suffered by many Palestinians held in Israeli jails. Many are on rolling detention orders, released and immediately re-arrested and put back in prison.

Those imprisoned in Israel include young children, often held for long stretches in solitary confinement, accused of throwing stones, as well as people who have objected when Israeli settlers have stolen fruit or land. Human rights organisations have protested about the imprisonment and treatment of many of them, and some have taken part in hunger strikes against their continued incarceration.

Palestine Prisoners Parade


UVW Topshop 2 protest – Strand

As the rally was coming to a close the United Voices of the World hold a further protest against Topshop, demanding the reinstatement of 2 workers suspended by cleaning contractor Britannia for calling for the London Living Wage of £9.40 an hour for all those working at Topshop.

UVW General Secretary Petros Elia

Class War had come to support the UVW, and when a large crowd of police came to try and move the protesters away there were arguments and quite a bit of pushing by police when people tried to prevent them filming protesters by holding up banners and placards. One man was pulled to one side by police who appeared to be about to arrest him; a crowd formed around him as he refused to answer police questions and eventually the officer concerned gave up.

There were a few short speeches including one by Susanna, one of the two cleaners victimised by Britannia and Topshop, who broke down in tears before continuing and ending her speech to loud applause. The protesters then decided it was time to march to another location.

UVW Topshop 2 protest – Strand


UVW Topshop & John Lewis Protest – Oxford St

The UVW marched to Oxford Street and tried to enter the Topshop close to Oxford Circus but were stopped by a large squad of police.

After a brief confrontation outside the shop they marched on to another site where the UVW are in dispute, John Lewis, where they are also demanding a living wage for the cleaners.

The banners slowed the protesters down a little and the police were able to rush past them, and pushed them back with considerable force as they tried to move towards the store doors. Susanna, one of the Topshop 2, was violently thrown to the ground and was helped up by both other police and protesters, who demanded an apology – and rather to my surprise the officer in charge after some arguments got the officer concerned to come and make one.

After some minutes of protest blocking the road in front of Jown Lewis and the store entrnace the protesters decided to return to Topshop. As they did so the police seized and questioned a woman who was wearing a mask and a man in a hood and goggles which they made him removed, threatening him with arrest; reluctantly he did so. After they had released him I decided to leave the protest for home.

UVW Topshop & John Lewis Protest


More pictures and text about all the protests on My London Diary:
UVW Topshop & John Lewis Protest
UVW Topshop 2 protest – Strand
Palestine Prisoners Parade
Dancing for Homes, Health, Jobs, Education
Homes, Health, Jobs, Education Rally
Ahwazi protest against Iranian repression
March for Homes, Health, Jobs, Education


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Why we are short of Nurses

Sunday, January 9th, 2022

Why we are short of Nurses
On January 9th 2016 I took the pictures shown here of a rally and march against the axing of bursaries for student nurses and midwives. The current huge surge in hospitalisation of Covid victims as Omicron rages through the nation has highlighted the huge shortage of qualified medical people in the NHS at all levels.

For years, but increasingly since the Tory-led coalition came to power in 2010, there have been huge shortages, with the NHS having to recruit from overseas – including from many poorer countries which are even more short of staff than the UK.

We have of course been bringing in nurses and doctors from abroad for many years – at least from the 1950s – rather than training enough from our own population. It has never been that there were not enough young people who want to be nurses and doctors – and in my years as a teacher I taught quite a few suitable young men and women who were well qualified but failed to gain admission to medical schools where there were perhaps 12 applicants for every place.

Hospitals have also become hugely reliant on agency nurses rather than directly employed staff, partly because of relatively low pay, but also because of a lack of self-defeating lack of flexibility by underfunded NHS hospitals which actually results in increased costs.

But for training nurses, the Tory government really messed things up in 2016 by removing the training bursaries for NHS nurses and midwives. Unlike other students they perform essential work for the NHS in hospitals caring for patients as an integral part of their courses, which makes it virtually impossible for them to undertake other part-time employment during their studies.

And in 2017 things got even worse and nursing students have had to pay tuition fees in the same way as other university students, leaving them with large loans to pay off when they complete their courses and go into employment.

Len McClusky, General Secretary of Unite next to a Unison banner

In 2020 the Royal College of Nursing published a report Beyond the Bursary: Workforce Supply which makes the point that at the start of the pandemic there were almost 40,000 nursing vacancies in the NHS in England alone, and called on government to develop a fully funded workforce strategy and aim for “an oversupply of nurses given years of underinvestment and the growing needs of our population.

The report notes that following the removal of the bursary there was a 31% drop in applicants for nursing courses, and over 4% fewer being accepted. Where we needed and increase in numbers being trained due to the shortage, government policies directly produced a decrease.

The RCN called on the government to abolish the tuition fees for nursing courses and reimburse the fees for those students affected by the removal of the bursary. And although the welcomed the decision to bring back an annual maintenance grant of £5000 for nursing students (£8,000 for some difficult to recruit specialities) from September 2020 they asked for that to be increased to a level that reflects the actual cost.

Of course the pandemic has made things worse. Some have died from Covid, partly as a result of the failure to provide effective protective clothing – and those contracts given to Tory mates with no experience in the field while some established companies failed to get orders. Many among those who recovered from Covid continue to suffer its after-effects – ‘long-Covid’. Others have simply been exhausted by overwork – and this is “a workforce that felt undervalued, unrewarded and where one in three were nearing retirement age.”

Brexit too has taken its toll, both with nurses from European countries leaving the UK and the failure of our government to respect the early promises it made to EU citizens working in the UK has not helped. Brexit and the continuing squabbles by the government over the treaty it signed is also a deterrent to people to now come and work here.

The shortage of nurses – and other medical staff – is a direct result of government policies. Not just the Tories but also of Labour under Blair and Brown, and is a part of the slow sabotaging of the NHS as a part of a policy of creeping privatisation that has been underway since at least the Thatcher years, though vastly accelerated since 2010. Unfortunately it isn’t as one placard states that the Tories are short-sighted, but that they are playing a long game to undermine our National Health Service.

More pictures on My London Diary:
NHS Bursaries March
NHS Bursaries rally before march


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Students Protest Fees & Cuts – 24 Nov 2010

Wednesday, November 24th, 2021

It was a Labour government under Tony Blair that first brought in fees for undergraduate and postgraduate certificate students at universities in September 1998. And it had been a Tory government under Harold Macmillan that had exempted UK resident students from tuition fees and given a right to means-tested maintenance grants back in 1962, though previously local authorities had also paid fees and grants for students from low income families. At the same time maintenance grants were replaced with repayable student loans for all but the poorest students.

When they were brought in, the full fees were £1000 a year, but those with family incomes of less than £23,000 – roughly the average salary then – paid nothing, and only those with over £35,000 paid the full fees. £1000 in 1998 is equivalent to around £1800 now allowing for inflation. The Labour government put up the fees to £3000 in 2004, and set up the Browne review of Higher Education funding in 2009, which published its recommendations after they had lost power, but most of which were implemented by the Tory-Lib Dem coalition.

Browne had argued that there should be no cap on University fees, but the government decided on a cap of £9,000 and Browne also was responsible for recommending a system of student loans, although minor changes were made by the coalition government in its implementation. The Government’s spending review had also called for the Educational Maintenance Allowances (EMA), intoduced nationally under Labour in 2004 to be scrapped. This had given allowances to 16-18 year-olds in full time education from a household with an income of less than £30,810 with the full amount of £30 a week only for those whose household income is less than £20,817. It was these changes being introduced and other cuts in education which led to the student protests in 2010.

There have been further cuts since, as well as changes to make the student loan scheme less fair – and there are further changes planned which seem to make the loans considerably less generous. I was fortunate enough to have had all my undergraduate fees and a full maintenance grant paid by my local authority. My two sons also just scraped in before the 1998 changes at the time I was a teacher and the sole wage earner for the family and I think both got more or less a full maintenance grant.

Many countries still manage to provide free higher education for their own nationals and in some cases for foreign students – including Scotland and most of Europe but also many other countries around the world, and it is a right recognised in a number of international conventions. Since the UK is the sixth richest country in the world, it seems rather surprising that our students have to pay, and pay increasingly. It’s hard not to see it as a deliberate attack by the wealthy on the poor.

One of my most published pictures (at the top of this post) from the student protest on Wednesday 24th November shows a group of schoolgirls holding hands around a vandalised police van to protect it from further damage. Police who had harassed the march from the start and stopped it briefly several times had finally stopped it with a large force of police and a line of vans across the end of Parliament St, but, as I commented “had thoughtfully left an old police van as a plaything for the protesters outside the treasury. Perhaps because the tread on its tyres was so worn it would have been a traffic offence to move it – and it looked very unlikely to pass an MOT.” Press and protesters around it were told by march stewards that “it was obviously a plant” but this “didn’t stop a few masked guys attacking it (and I was threatened with having my camera smashed for photographing them doing so)”.

Many of the students were protesting for the first time, and although some protesters pushed through the police line, few of the others followed them. It was hard to understand the police actions at times.

As I was about to leave, riot police decided to charge towards the people between the pavement barriers and the west side of Whitehall, again with what appeared to be some fairly indiscriminate batoning. I was threatened by police and forced to move away from the wall over which I had been leaning rather than be hit. They stopped their charge a few yards down the street.

I commented:


It had been a pretty confused situation, and it seemed to me that neither police nor students came out of it with much credit. The police tactics seemed designed to create public disorder by kettling and a small minority of the students rose to the bait. Although most of the students were out for a peaceful march and rally and to exercise their democratic right to protest, the police seemed to have little interest in upholding that right.

More about the protest and more pictures on My London Diary Students Protest Fees & Cuts.


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Saturday 16th April 2016

Friday, April 16th, 2021

There was a lot happening in London on Saturday 16th April 2016, and I managed to catch some of it. The largest march was organised by the Peoples Assembly Against Austerity. It demanded an end to privatisation of the NHS, secure homes for all, rent control and an end to attacks on social housing, an end to insecure jobs and the scrapping of the Trade Union Bill, tuition fees and the marketisation of education.

It was a large march and by the time I arrived people were fairly tightly packed on around 500 metres of Gower St waiting for the march to start, and it took me some time to make my way through to the gazebo where speeches were being made before the start of the the march – though I found plenty to photograph as I moved through the crowd.

Finally I made my way to the front of the march and photographed some of the main banners lined up there, but police held up the start of the march and I had to leave before it moved off.

I was disappointed in Whitehall as there was no sign of an event I had been expecting to take place there – or perhaps I was too late. But in Parliament Square I met Ahwazi Arabs from the Ahwazi Arab People’s Democratic Popular Front and the Democratic Solidarity Party of Alahwaz who have demonstrated London in solidarity with anti-government protests in Iran every April since 2005, on the anniversary of the peaceful Ahwazi intifada in which many were killed and hundreds arrested by the Iranian regime.

The Ahwaz region, an autonomous Arab state, was occupied by Iran in 1925 iand they incorporated it into the country in 1935 largely to allow the British Anglo-Iranian Oil Company (BP since 1954) to exploit its rich oil reserves. Since then Iran has pursued a campaign to eliminate Ahwazi culture and change the ethnic makeup of the region by encouraging Persian settlers. BP dominated Iranian oil until Iran nationalised it in 1951, and again became an important force there after the CIA (and MI6) engineered coup in 1953 and the company is still the major partner supplied by the National Iranian Oil Company.

I walked back up Whitehall to Trafalgar Square, by which time the Peoples Assembly marchers were arriving for a rally.

Things were visually rather more interesting on the North Terrace, where people were dancing to the ‘dig it sound system’, which carried a message from Tom Paine: “The World is my country – All people are my brethren – To do good is my religion”.

And in one corner the Palestine Prisoners Parade were attracting attention with juggling, hula hoops and speeches to the often arbitrary detention without proper trial suffered by many Palestinians held in Israeli jails. Many of them are on rolling detention orders, released and immediately re-arrested and put back in prison.

As the rally came to an end the United Voices of the World trade union began a protest a short distance away on the Strand, supported by Class War and others, demanding the reinstatement of 2 workers suspended by cleaning contractor Britannia for calling for the London Living Wage of £9.40 an hour for all those working at Topshop. The UVW say Brittania is systematically victimising, bullying and threatening cleaners and Topshop refuse to intervene.

The fairly small crowd held a noisy protest outside the shop entrance, with was blocked by security men, and a large group of police arrived and began to try to move the protesters, and began pushing them around. The protesters didn’t retaliate but simply moved back; some holding up placards in front of the police cameraman who was filming the event were threatened with arrest.

Eventually the protesters marched away, walking back along the North Terrace of Trafalgar Square where they picked up a few more supporters and then on to Top Shop at Oxford Circus for another protest and stand-off with the police.

After a fairly short protest there the protesters marched on to John Lewis, where the UVW have a long-standing dispute calling for the cleaners to be treated equally with others who work there. As they approached the store some police became more violent and one woman was thrown bodily to the ground several yards away.

Other police and protesters went to help her and the protesters called for – and eventually got – an apology for the inappropriate use of force. Things calmed down and the protest continued, but as it moved off after several speeches with many leaving for home the police picked on two individuals and began searching them and threatening arrest and the situation became more tense, with police threatening both protesters and press.

More on My London Diary
UVW Topshop & John Lewis Protest
UVW Topshop 2 protest – Strand
Palestine Prisoners Parade
Dancing for Homes, Health, Jobs, Education
Homes, Health, Jobs, Education Rally
Ahwazi protest against Iranian repression
March for Homes, Health, Jobs, Education

Santa time

Sunday, December 6th, 2020

I’m still rather in denial over Christmas, kind of hoping it will go away. Not that I don’t enjoy most of the things we won’t be doing this year, meeting up with friends, visiting distant family and so on, but somehow I never manage to get myself organised over things like Christmas Cards and presents until the last minute.

This year I did try, and a few weeks ago pored over the many Christmas catalogues that I’d been sent, and then went on line to make some orders – only to find that everything I had chosen was already sold out. It rubbed salt into the wound to then get e-mails from a couple of the companies promoting items that I’d already tried to order without success.

Christmas decorations outside houses began going up early this year – already some were twinkling away in mid-November. Linda brought home a tree a week ago, and I should have photographed her coming home with the pot at its base wedged tightly in her cycle pannier, but couldn’t summon up the energy. I did help her in the difficult task of extracting it from the pannier, and for the moment it is sitting outside in our back garden. We always buy growing trees, and usually they last a couple of Christmases before getting too large to bring inside. We have two specimens now at over 50ft in our smallish back garden, and I’ve had to cut down a couple more over the years when it was beginning to get too crowded.

Although I’ve never myself dressed up as Santa (though I have the beard if I let it grow a bit) in past years I’ve often enjoyed photographing Santacon in London around this time of years. It began as a gloriously anarchic event with hundreds or thousands of Father and Mother Christmases, elves and reindeer spilling rather drunkenly across the city streets, but then the police stepped in as it was disrupting the spending festival on one of the busiest shopping days before Christmas.

These pictures of Santacon come from Dec 6th 2014 and I probably went as far as wearing a Santa hat to join in the festivities for an hour or so before retiring to a small pub a little off their route where a couple of friends were waiting for a rather quieter celebration.

Here’s my text from My London Diary where there are more pictures from Santacon:

Thousands in Santa suits and other Xmas deviations, police trying hard to keep smiling, cans of beer, doubtfully soft drinks, just a few Brussel sprouts in the air, crowded bars, sprawling mass of mainly young people having fun on the streets of London. Santacon

http://mylondondiary.co.uk/2014/12/dec.htm#santas

Of course this – and the extreme shopping were not the only things happening in London that day. After photographing the Santas at one of their three starting points I then joined the South London March for Free Education against tuition fees which was also starting just a few yards away on Clapham Common.

After marching with them through Clapham on their way to Brixton I took the tube to Westminster where there was a rather more Christmassy event taking place, a Fossil Free Nativity Play by Christian Climate Action, before leaving to join the North London Santas on the Euston Road.

More at:
Santacon North London
Fossil Free Nativity – Churches Divest!
South London March for Free Education
Santacon Start in Clapham


All photographs on this and my other sites, unless otherwise stated, are taken by and copyright of Peter Marshall, and are available for reproduction or can be bought as prints.