It's time for a STUDENT REVOLT
PRESS RELEASE: FIGHTBACK WAIKATO
Demonstration against High Tuition Fees and Labours 2.3% funding
"THE CAP IS A COP OUT!"
"Cut the crap, stuff the cap- Labour's Student Poverty Trap!"
WEDNESDAY 1pm AUGUST 9th
starting at WAIKATO STUDENTS UNION
marching to Registry, B Block
in solidarity with 114 staff facing job losses in Palmerstown North
contact Joe at 025 6048955
It's time for a STUDENT REVOLT
by Joe Carolan, Waikato Occupation activist
After taking stock over the holiday period, the student movement for Free Education is preparing for another term of action, with groups at Waikato, Wellington and Massey already preparing to fight. Recent events have shown how little is really on offer from the Labour led coalition, and a lot of the illusions that students had in the new government have been sorely let down. The Fightback movement that took simultaneous action for nationwide occupations earlier this year has led to the reinvigoration of student activism on these campuses, who warned that the Labour party were not going to tackle the huge crisis in education. This has been borne out in recent weeks with-
1. An admission from Steve Maharey's office that they are not prepared to process student loans in 2001, with the result that the WINZ disaster will be repeated, leaving thousands of students without money for food or rent at the beginning of the next academic year. Fightback, the national campaign for Free Education, demands the abolition of loans and the introduction of a Universal Student Living Allowance, to avoid this man made crisis.
2. Statements from tertiary institutions, staff unions and NZUSA that the 2.3% increase in funding offered by Labour will not be enough to stop cutbacks, staff layoffs and course closures. This derisory increase will not keep up with inflation, and fees will dramatically increase in 2002. The cap is a cop out, a band aid on the fleshwound of student debt, now reaching the $4 billion mark. It is a cynical short term fix to temporarily freeze fees, which will lead to disaster down the line. Fightback demands proper funding of tertiary institutions, research and staff by taxing the rich top 5% of society, who benifitted in corporate tax breaks from cutbacks in public services like health and education.
3. Reality. Already the knife is falling at Victoria and Massey, where shortfalls in funding are leading to job losses and course closures. Victoria is cutting back on $8 million worth of courses and staff- Massey is firing 114 lecturers in what management newspeak calls "repositioning". There are signs that this could be the spark to ignite the fire of solidarity between students and staff, with the possibility that industrial action could be backed by student occupations. If this were to happen, other campus activist groups under the Fightback banner would agitate for solidarity action on their campus, and the cutbacks would be made into a national issue for the government.
The illusions in the new Labour government are wearing away, and more and more students are realising that they will have to fight just as they did under National. Last year's mass occupation at Canterbury triggered occupations in Auckland and Victoria, and were the inspiration for the movement to plan nationwide simultaneous occupations for free education at the end of March. The mood on Waikato campus has been transformed- the Fightback group there are organising "The Cap is a Cop Out" protest against the 2.3% offer, and are leading the campaign for a Universal Union membership that will see a fighting union on campus. The rightwingers who introduced voluntary unionism are widely seen as self serving profiteers, who privatised student assets, and left students without collective defense against fee increases and poverty. There is hope that a victory on the Universal campaign will see a return to fighting unionism on Campus.
Staff and students at Massey have joined in action, marching against the 114 job losses, rediscovering the scottish tradition of "waysailing" their arrogant management. Villagers would surround the house of a tyrannical landlord at night, and shame him through song all night. The clearances have come to Massey- staff threatened with the chop should also rediscover the scottish tradition of the Red Clydeside, strike and occupy their workplace, backed by student occupation. A joint staff/student occupation would be inspirational throughout Aotearoa, and it would put real pressure on Labour to increase it's funding and stop job losses.
The student movement for Free Education is looking outward, in particular making contacts with students on Polytech campuses. Heather Lyall from Waikato Fightback spoke at the Aotearoa Polytech Students Union conference in Taupo at the beginnig of July, and several Poly campuses are organising to join Universities in the next wave of national protest. A nucleus of strong and outward looking activists on a campus will grow in the next period, as is borne out by the experience on Waikato and Wellington. We also need joint staff/student resistance to job losses and course closures, and invite staff members to activist meetings.
Labour are offering job losses, inadequate funding, a continuation of student debt and high fees that bar many people from low income backgrounds the right to educate themselves. "Cut the crap- stuff your Cap- Labour's student poverty trap!". This term will see a new wave of students taking the power back, by the only real way to get change. And that's grassroots action- strikes, occupations, marches and solidarity. Let's stand up for our rights.
Join the student Fightback-
Waikato- Joe Carolan 025 6048955 firstname.lastname@example.org Wellington- Nick Henry Victoria Students Union 4793569 Massey at Palmy North- Katy 3595411 Auckland....