Covid-19: Fighting for solidarity, equality and education

Covid-19 webinar landscape v2

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Speakers to follow.

This is part of a series of webinars during the crisis hosted by UCU Left.

You can view past webinars here.

  1. Fighting for Education in the Time of Coronavirus
  2. Defending Casualised Workers in the Lockdown
  3. Homeworking & Managerialism: Beyond the Exam Factory

UCU members put themselves at the forefront of fighting austerity and inequality. The strikes in further and higher education on pay inequality, pensions, casualised workers and workload. In doing so we have been the guardians of education and challenged the market vision of education.

The government has warned that the economy could shrink by 35% with unemployment reaching 2 million. The starting gun has gone off on the question of who pays and who is to blame for the crisis. How any recovery takes place. Therefore we urgently need to debate how we can use our collective strength to resist and to fight for solidarity and equality, and an inclusive education for all.

The Corona pandemic has exposed the depth of inequality in Britain. Frontline BAME and migrant health workers and those providing essential services in care homes, buses, shop workers, and many more, have died disproportionately as they work without vital PPE under a herd immunity strategy in practice.

The Tories are already starting to plan how to make us pay for their crisis and roll back equality gains. With it will come the divisive rhetoric and blaming of minorities and those accessing welfare. We can already see with the rejection of demands for a bailout how higher education could be viewed as a luxury for those who can afford it or merit the opportunity.

How can we protect a vision of full and inclusive education that break down barriers? The proposals to rank students to award grades will reinforce the inequalities that see black, asian and working class communities denied access to education and labelled as failures. How do we ensure they have no detriment and there remains an education service that can widen participation and access for all?

Some employers are rushing to cut their cloth rather than advocating post-16 education as vital to the recovery. It will be BAME workers on insecure contracts and students from poor backgrounds who will face the brunt of those cuts. Black communities will be doubly hit, by being forced into taking insecure and dangerous work , and education to these communities will decline to a basic level of training for dead end jobs.

The move to remote working has put a renewed triple burden on women. The inadequacy of social care means women are expected to perform their work, whilst also the role of carer for elderly family, and looking after children. This is in the context of cut services for vulnerable women and a rise in domestic violence. There will be a further barrier to women’s progression and the gender pay gap in academia.

We have seen a rise on eugenicist arguments about whose life is worth saving when hospitals are under resourced, or whose life should be sacrificed to the altar of profit. The elderly, sick and disabled have not been shielded, they have been abandoned by callous policies and cuts.

The introduction of the CoronaVirus Act 2020 should sound alarm bells. Every duty on our employers to meet the needs of disabled people under Care Act 2014 have been suspended. Those working at home are expected to do so with little regard to reasonable adjustments.

The state has more powers to detain people under the Mental Health Act. This comes at a time when there is a rise of poor mental health in young people and adults made worse by the crisis. How can we fight for an inclusive education for workers and students, the funding we need and for a social model of disability that breaks down barriers.

There can be no roll back on women’s rights women and LGBT+ rights. We have seen the impact on our campuses of the rise of the politics of hate to trans and minorities.  The impact of Corona is already affecting access to medical care for those who need to access gender identity clinics. The social, psychological and material experience of lockdown is vastly different for the oppressed and depending on your class position.

We are also witnessing divisive politics that pits the old against the young. Where older members of society should stay home whilst younger workers go back to work. We are already seeing debates in the media and from those in power, that juxtapose economy versus lives. These will seek to reframe what it means to grow old in society, to have a pension, the right to care and support, and lifelong learning.

We invite you to join this webinar to fight for an inclusive vision of education and society based on solidarity, equality and learning. To reject the divisive policies of cuts and scapegoating. That would lead to a roll back of inclusive and widening participation of education. We need to unite to defend it in the fight of our lives.


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