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.

Monday, 25 September 2017

Resisting water privatisation in Greece and Portugal

In response to the Eurozone crisis, austerity and restructuring has been imposed on the European Union’s (EU) peripheral member states in order to receive financial bailout loans. And yet, workers have not simply accepted these restructuring pressures. They have organised and fought back against austerity and enforced privatisation. In the article ‘Commodification and “the commons”: The politics of privatising public water in Greece and Portugal during the Eurozone Crisis’, published in the European Journal of International Relations (EJIR) and freely available at Nottingham eprints, Jamie Jordan and I comparatively assess the struggles against enforced water privatisation in Greece and Portugal set against the background of the structuring conditions surrounding the Eurozone crisis.

Thursday, 21 September 2017

Norwegian elections 2017: Another right-wing victory - and a serious Labour defeat.

For many decades post-1945 Norway was governed by the social democratic Labour Party. It was credited with the establishment of the so-called Nordic model, characterised by an expansive welfare state, comparatively high living standards and low inequality within society. And yet, not only did an alliance led by the Labour Party lose general elections in 2013, now four years later it failed to defeat a right-wing government. The Norwegian Labour Party has to prepare itself for a prolonged period in opposition. In this guest post Asbjørn Wahl analyses the underlying dynamics of the recent elections and assesses the opportunities and problems for social democracy in Norway and beyond. 

Friday, 8 September 2017

Feed the world: Can trade liberalisation help to achieve global food security?

Photo by Jason Taellious
Free trade’s expansion into the realm of food and agriculture has given residents of the Global North access to a greater range of food at lower costs than ever before. As with most commodities since free trade was implemented globally during the 1980s and 1990s, food has been globalised. However since the 2008 global financial crisis critiques of this prevailing economic system have become more prominent. The wisdom of free trade economics is being questioned at an unprecedented level, with many seeing it as increasingly evident that the people of the Global South are being exploited for the benefit of those in rich nations. With the financial crisis came a food price crisis, which led to the number of people not receiving adequate nutrition reaching a level not seen in decades, with one in seven people going hungry worldwide.

Paradoxically, more food is being produced than ever, and the burden of hunger is tragically placed in developing countries. In this guest post, Angus Macleod analyses whether this crisis, and general malnourishment in the developing world, can be considered a result of the trade liberalisation policies which dominate global economics, and if so, how viable food sovereignty, the main alternative to this system, can be.


Thursday, 31 August 2017

After the elections: Where next for the Labour Party?

Against all odds and predictions, the Labour Party under the leadership of Jeremy Corbyn and John McDonnell secured a much better result in the general elections on 8 June 2017 than expected. Considering the resulting hung parliament and the Conservative minority government of Theresa May having to rely on the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) as well as Conservative party internal tensions over Brexit negotiations, many observers point to the likelihood of renewed elections in the near future. What does this mean for the Labour Party? In this blog post, I will reflect on the potential labour strategy for the next months and year.


Monday, 14 August 2017

Workers’ Cooperatives: The British experience in the 1970s.

The 1970s in Britain were a decade of contestation and polarisation. Following a leftward shift amongst the labour movement, groups such as the Institute for Workers’ Control (IWC) supported the concept of industrial democracy to suggest a new direction for a worker-oriented economy. In this guest post, Daniel Burridge reports on the formation of the so-called “Wedgwood Benn cooperatives” (Oakeshott 1978: 108), the purest expression of the industrial democratic ideal from the perspective of the IWC. These were located at the Triumph factory in Meriden, the Scottish Daily Express printing factory in Glasgow and the Fisher Bendix factory in Kirkby, near Liverpool. The new tactic involved buying out the factory sites and equipment of jaded private ownership and running production on the democratically-decided terms of the workers.


Saturday, 22 July 2017

The Students’ Union of Nottingham University moves towards paying a Living Wage. When will the University follow?

In a referendum organised by students at the University of Nottingham, an overwhelming majority of 96 per cent of participating students voted in favour of the University of Nottingham Students’ Union (SU) to become a Living Wage employer and pay its entire staff the Living Wage, as calculated by the Living Wage Foundation. In this guest post, Ed Marks, one of the leading activists in the referendum, reflects on the outcome.

Friday, 7 July 2017

Fighting for Public Water in Europe.

The first European Citizens’ Initiative (ECI) on ‘Water and Sanitation are a Human Right’ was an enormous success. Between May 2012 and September 2013, an alliance of trade unions, social movements and NGOs succeeded in collecting close to 1.9 million signatures across the European Union (EU), thereby reaching the required quota in 13 EU member states. In my open access article ‘Fighting for public water: the first successful European Citizens’ Initiative, “Water and Sanitation are a Human Right”’, recently published in the journal Interface: a journal for and about social movements, I analyse the underlying dynamics of this struggle and its impact on EU policy-making in detail. 

In this blog post, I will discuss the main factors underlying this success: 1) the long history of water struggles; 2) the unique quality of water; and 3) the broad alliance of participating actors.


Monday, 26 June 2017

Low Pay at the University of Nottingham – the cleaners’ perspective.

The Living Wage/Anti-casualisation campaign group at the University of Nottingham hosted the event Nottingham – Living Wage City? Living Wage University? on Tuesday, 13 June. It brought together a number of positive examples of Living Wage employers from Nottingham as well as illustrated the hardship suffered by people on less than the minimum wage, people on casual teaching contracts or fixed-term research contracts.

Cleaners at Nottingham University are one of the lowest paid groups of staff members. In this blog post, the address to the event by Sonja, a cleaner at the University, is reprinted. We have altered her name for purposes of anonymity.

Friday, 16 June 2017

Nottingham – Living Wage City? Living Wage University?

Bringing together speakers from trade unions, employers and those working for less than the Living Wage from across Nottingham, this event on Tuesday, 13 June was part of the Living Wage/Anti-casualisation campaign at the University of Nottingham. The purpose of the meeting was twofold. First, we celebrated a number of Living Wage employers in Nottingham, setting a good example for others to follow. Second, it was highlighted that the University of Nottingham is still not paying all members of staff a Living Wage despite of year on year multi-million pounds of surplus. In this respect, we launched our booklet Living close to the edge:Confronting Insecurity and Low Pay at the University of Nottingham, which compiles anonymised statements by University of Nottingham staff members talking about their hardship resulting from low pay and casualised working conditions.

The Living Wage is an hourly rate, currently £8.45 outside London, set independently and updated annually in November by the Living Wage Foundation.


Thursday, 1 June 2017

Another education is possible: The UCU Congress 2017!

The annual Congress of the University and College Union (UCU) met in Brighton from 26 to 29 May to assess the situation of Further and Higher Education in the UK. Since 2010 and the first Conservative-led government, Further and Higher Education have come under significant pressure. Against the background of the global financial crisis, salaries have fallen in real terms, the workforce has become increasingly casualised, moves towards privatisation have been facilitated and tuition fees have been increased to £9000 per year. And yet, the Labour Party manifesto for the general elections on 8 June 2017 offers a clear alternative. In this blog post, I will reflect on this possibility against the background of discussions at the UCU Congress.

Thursday, 25 May 2017

The Labour Party Manifesto 2017 – a clear alternative, worth fighting for!

While many in the press still wonder about the leaking of some parts of the Manifesto and others focus narrowly on the detailed costings, there is no doubt that this Labour Party Manifesto represents a clear alternative to the austerity policies of the Conservative government. Abolition of university tuition fees, nationalisation of rail, water and postal services, more money for the NHS and all paid for by higher taxes on the rich, this is a radical programme for social justice.


Friday, 12 May 2017

Greek Solidarity Co-ops: disruption of austerity beyond the electoral terrain.

Thursday, 11 May 2017, George Kokkinidis, Leicester University, gave a seminar in the Nottingham Sumac Centre on the objectives and principles of Greek Solidarity Co-ops in the ongoing crisis. While Greece was bullied into accepting the restructuring demands by the European Union (EU) in the summer of 2015, George made clear that resistance and the search for alternatives on the ground is alive and well today. In this blog post, I will draw on George’s presentation in an assessment of the state of the Left and ongoing possibilities of resistance.


Friday, 24 March 2017

Britain and the EU: a merchant’s perspective.

On Wednesday, 8 March a high profile panel discussed the future of Britain’s relationship with the EU at Nottingham University. Nottingham’s Vice Chancellor Professor David Greenaway was joined by Charles Clarke, former Home Secretary under Labour, Vince Cable, former Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills in the coalition government of the Conservatives and his Liberal Democrats in 2010. Professor Panicos Demetriades, former governor of the Central Bank of Cyprus, complemented the panel. Professor Jagjit Chadha of the National Institute of Economic and Social Research was the chair. In this blog post, I will briefly comment on the discussions, highlighting how they were a perfect reflection of Britain’s general merchant's perspective on European integration.


Photo by Mike Licht

Friday, 17 March 2017

Reactionary working class?

Large parts of the western working class now seem to gather around right-wing populists, demagogues and racists. They vote for reactionary and fascistoid political parties. They helped to vote the UK out of the EU, to make Trump president of the world's superpower number one, and they vote so massively for the far right political parties so that they have government power in sight throughout several of Europe's most populous countries. In this guest post, Asbjørn Wahl assesses these developments from a labour perspective and reflects on a progress way forward.

Tuesday, 28 February 2017

Betraying Europe and the danger of collapsing integration.

Photo by Wolf Gang
Brexit demonstrated clearly what many had perceived to be impossible: European integration is reversible. The potential breakup of the European Union (EU) has been welcomed by people on the political right as well as some on the left. While the former hail the return of national sovereignty, the latter often perceive Brexit as an important blow to neo-liberal, austerity Europe. In this blog post, I will critically assess these claims and highlight the dangers implicit in current developments. What many opponents overlook is the historical achievement of the EU to overcome long-standing, historical tensions and rivalries between different countries, which had resulted in two brutal world wars in the first half of the 20th century. Why is it, that European integration, which had been so popular amongst the involved peoples in the 1950s and 1960s, has lost so much attraction now in the 21st century?


Thursday, 9 February 2017

Training for Exploitation? Politicising Employability & Reclaiming Education.

Employability is a powerful and increasingly dominant word within the universities. Nottingham University is proud to be “ranked in the world top 100 Universities for employability”. This is because students are now the main funder of universities. And employability provides the answer to why the £9.250 tuition fees per year are worth it – even if one needs to in-debt oneself for this investment. Consequently, employability services are not only spreading like wildfire but also academic staff is increasingly pressurised to demonstrate in what ways their course facilitates students' employability. For these employability educators the Precarious Workers Brigade just published a book called “Training for Exploitation? Politicising Employability and Reclaiming Education” (a free pdf is available online). The book offers a “critical resource pack to assist teachers and students in deconstructing dominant narratives around work, employability and careers, and explores alternative ways of engaging with work and the economy”. In this guest post Vera Weghmann introduces the book by explaining what employability is and why it needs to be politicised.


Thursday, 5 January 2017

The Class Sentiment of the Precariat: Reflections on social movements in Portugal 2011-2013.

In 2011, analysing new and ever more widely spread practices of informal work Guy Standing made his important intervention announcing the emergence of the precariat as a new class-in-the-making (see The Precariat – a new class agent for transformation?). In this guest post, Florian Butollo critically engages with Standing’s claim through an examination of social movements in Portugal between 2011 and 2013. He demonstrates that provided we have a broader and more political understanding of class, these movements can still be understood in class terms, providing us with a better way of thinking about the possibilities of collective resistance against exploitation.