Another quick round-up of a few interesting stories and upcoming events: on the benefits front, the big news of late is the legal victory won by workfare campaigners over the DWP, in a case which the government had previously warned could lead to the collapse of the Mandatory Work Activity scheme. Of course, there’s no guarantee that the government will actually comply with the court’s rulings, as previous legal cases have shown how easy it is for them to rewrite the law to suit themselves. Also in welfare news, the Merseyside Anti-Bedroom Tax Federation sounds impressively organised, and Johnny Void highlights the upcoming lobby of PCS conference over benefit sanctions as an important date for militant claimants in and around Brighton.
It’s been a busy week in the ongoing fight against the blacklisting of unionists: I’ve not been able to find a definite update on the case of sacked IWW bus driver Oscar Alvarez, but the case is definitely worth keeping an eye on and supporting if possible, and retired electrician George Tapp was knocked down by a car at a protest against blacklisting in Manchester a few days ago. He’ll require reconstructive surgery on his legs, but is reported to be in good spirits. If you want to help keep up the fight and you live in London, then you might want to show up to support Frank Morris, a blacklisted electrician who’s going to an employment tribunal on Tuesday morning, or if you live in Glasgow the Blacklist Support Group have called a protest there next Saturday.
Finally, what sounds like a victory: management at Birmingham University, who’d been threatening 361 support staff with redundancy or pay cuts, have backed down after campaigners at the university responded with a call for a national demonstration similar to the one that rocked Sussex recently. While these kinds of victories are rarely complete or clear-cut, they do demonstrate the power of direct action to change a situation for the better, and challenge the idea that there’s nothing we can do. The last word should go to Birmingham Defend Education themselves: “Calling off this action is not the end of the campaign. Both staff and students will resume organisation in the next academic year when we are stronger, and we can continue to build a sustained campaign rather than just one big action… When we become involved in organising, we are constantly told that protests don’t change anything, but the actions of this group and the national student movement have shown management that we’re capable of defending ourselves if they try attack the conditions of staff and students.”