With x-mas just around the corner and all the gifts wrapped under that perfectly decorated pine tree. As the anticipation builds, interrupting the final two nights sleep before His day. Whilst distant family satellite in ready for an unhealthy dose of nostalgia and brandy. One little present is leaving the front of house ICA staff wishing they’d been given coal.
Over the past week, some of the lowest paid staff members (the ones which guard your coat at the cloak room, check your tickets at the cinema, invigilate and discuss the dull artwork in the poorly curated Bloomberg New Contemporaries show) have received an ultimatum; take an approximate 10% cut from your wages or lose your job. What amounts to nothing other than passive-aggressive bullying by managers, a new contract has been drafted that would see paid breaks removed under the new working conditions and if this contract is not signed, the staff have no job in the new year.
“Paid breaks, that’s a bit of a luxury! They’re not even working then.” I hear the more conservative of the readers cry. Well let’s do a little simple maths, using conservative figures of course, to establish what this actually amounts to. On a £7.25 hourly wage (as advertised on their website) working a generous 30 hours per week, expecting at a minimum 3 hours for lunch over this period, the staff would currently earn a gross of £217.50 a week. Working, again generous considering times between shows, 50 weeks a year comes to a meagre annual gross pay of £10, 875 (obviously before tax an NI deductions). Under the contracts proposed to kick in at the beginning of 2012 (a year likely to see increased foot flow and revenue to the ICA, especially as events are set to take place opposite) this would see this hypothetical weekly wage reduced by £21.75 a week and £1,087.50 a year. For those that this is their sole income, that is extremely substantial not a luxury.
So, as the sun sets for the final few days before the ICA closes until the new year. Their staff have the wonderful gift of choice, either to work at a greatly reduced daily rate or start the new year in the dole queue. I know which one I’d rather choose #solidaritywithunemployedworkers
Have a great x-mas!
p.s. The ICA telephone number is 020 7930 0493 and twitter @ICALondon
Bloomsbury Social Centre has been threatened with eviction – add you name to the list of supporters:
Dear SOAS management,
We write to express our disappointment that you have begun legal proceedings against us. We are aware that such proceedings can result in the use of violence against students; this is a situation we are very keen to avoid.
In addition to the SOAS students involved in the occupation from its beginning, many SOAS undergraduates, post-graduates and academics have flowed through our doors in the last three weeks. Most have been extremely supportive of (and many have been involved in) the activities here. The accessibility of this previously disused building, on lease from the University of London, has also been welcomed by students, lecturers and trade unionists from universities across the capital.
While you have claimed that you will suffer financial damages from our continued use of the building, this should be weighed against the political damages you may suffer in consequence of an eviction. This is a concern that has been raised in our discussions with affected SOAS post-graduate students, with whom our meetings and discussions have continued in a warm, friendly spirit.
We wish to continue our activities in the building for a time, not forgoing the peaceful, non-violent manner that – as you note in your application for an injunction – has characterised the Social Centre so far. To this end, we would like to negotiate a mutually agreeable time for our departure from the building. Our suggested date is January 10th 2012, at the beginning of the new SOAS term. This time would provide us with a few weeks in which to continue the necessary political work in which we are engaged with residents and employees in and around Bloomsbury.
We would appreciate a response before the court date on Thursday morning, as we believe that this kind of negotiation can save time and expenses for both of us.
Millionaire Iain Duncan Smith wants you to join his army of unpaid workers. Come and expose his doublespeak!
Kicking off the Month of Action Against Benefit Cuts:
Help us expose IDS’ doublespeak and ensure the LSE does not legitimise his poisonous policies.
5.30pm-6.30pm, Thursday 1 December LSE Campus, Aldwych (Nearest tube: Holborn). Meet outside the entrance to The Old Building, Houghton Street (demo may move when venue for talk is announced) or 5.30 outside sainsburys opposite holborn tube.
On Thursday 1st December, Iain Duncan Smith, Secretary of State for the DWP, will continue his mission of ideological poison against welfare with a high-profile talk at respected academic institution LSE. IDS who himself models ‘millionaire spouse dependency’ culture, and who has repeatedly lied about his own CV, educational attainment, and made dubious expense claims as an MP (for payments to his millionaire wife) is in no position to talk about “troubled neighbourhoods”. Ignoring the facts, he claimed that the riots of August were caused by welfare dependency and gangs.
A few examples of Iain Duncan Smith’s “innovative policies on tackling poverty”
- Purging disabled people from sickness benefits.
- Forcing unemployed people to work without pay for multi-million pound companies including Tesco, Asda and Poundland.
- Rolling out Universal Credit which will subject people who are currently in work, to the same draconian rules applied to those on unemployment benefits.
- Spending a few days on a housing estate in Scotland.
Despite this, Iain Duncan Smith:
- Has perversely set up a think-tank called The Centre for Social Justice!
- Has been billed at this LSE event as talking about how to “create better futures for our most disadvantaged children” and defending Sure Start! Yeah right.
Join us as we ensure that “the quiet man” is not here to stay. We are turning up the volume!
At 10.30am today, students, workers and residents from across Bloomsbury occupied a disused University property. From today, 53 Gordon Square will be renamed the Bloomsbury Social Centre.
The building has been empty for three years, subject to a legal dispute over its ownership. One of the claimants, the School of Oriental and African Studies, has this year announced that the property is to be redeveloped as a new post-graduate centre. Concurrently, it has announced the appointment of a new dean of post-graduate studies, one of whose perks will be a luxury apartment in the top-floor of the building.
SOAS management are perhaps ignorant of the context in which 53 Gordon Square was left vacantly to rot. Since 2008, the recession has been steadily worsening. House prices have remained unaffordable, living costs for ordinary people have continued to rise, and desperately needed public space has been made over to Big Retail at fire sale prices.
We don’t need any more luxury apartments, any more than we need new senior managers to live in them. The Bloomsbury Social Centre will instead be a real community resource: the material instrument required to build for the November 30th strike. Students, workers and local people are all invited to use it.
We entered through the main door at about 11 a.m., without being blocked. Only SOAS management have raised any dispute on this point. Remember that this is the same institution which in past months has allowed security and police to assault its own students and staff at what would otherwise have been peaceful protests. This morning we were intimidated by CIS security guards; in the afternoon we were intimidated by police, who have tried to smash down doors and made threats of arrests.
Our experience today is akin to (but it is also just a taster of) what communities subject to austerity are everywhere now forced to confront. It is because they confront it — because they must — that austerity policing has everywhere intensified.
In Bloomsbury the recession has been used as an excuse to stagnate wages, casualise employment, and to impose redundancies. It has been used further to separate workers, residents and students. Things have to change. Empty buildings wait across our city. We take heart from the action of Occupy movements around the world, the resistance to austerity measures in Greece, and the militant workers’ movement which is pushing forward the revolutions in Egypt and beyond.
The Bloomsbury Social Centre
CALL OUT TO SUPPORT THE PICKET AT THE NATIONAL GALLERY
As members of the PCS union, workers at The National Gallery will be on strike on the 30th of November 2011 – meeting outside at 10am.
Please come to show your support.
The National Gallery has suffered a 15% budget cut under the Coalition and it is front line staff who are the ones being cut, putting both staff and works of art at risk.
On the 9th of November workers at The National Gallery staged a protest during the grand opening of the current Leonardo Da Vinci exhibit to raise awareness of the effects of the cuts – workers were greeted with solidarity from visitors and calls to boycott the gallery!
Now workers have voted four-to-one in favour of strike action!
ALL OUT FOR NOVEMBER 30TH
This evening (November 22nd 2011) student activists from Cambridge Defend Education prevented David Willetts, the Minister of State for Universities and Science, from delivering a lecture on ‘The Idea of the University’ in the Lady Mitchell Hall lecture theatre.
As Willetts took the stage, activists collectively read an address which was repeated throughout the hall, echoing the worldwide ‘Occupy Movement’. It made clear that he was not welcome and that his mind was made up before the debate began.
After the speech, during which Willetts remained silent, Cambridge Defend Education occupied the stage, prompting the minister to leave. The group then delivered a speech on the catastrophic impact of the White Paper, should it be implemented.
Addressing the issue of free speech, an occupier commented: “Those who think that letting the talk go ahead would have influenced the debate on higher education are misguided. We have marched for a year, been kettled repeatedly and threatened with rubber bullets. Willetts has made up his mind; he is not for turning. That is why we shut him down.”
We understand some people’s concerns about freedom of speech and the value of open debate. But the discussion planned for today about the ‘idea of the university’ was a sham from the beginning. Debate over the future of higher education has been foreclosed by the government, with the voices of students and academics completely ignored.
The organisers of the series of talks of which Willetts was part neglected to invite any student speakers. Willetts came not to invite participation in the making of government policy, but as part of an extended and cynical PR exercise.
“No question, however carefully worded and rationally compelling, would have had the same impact as our action. We apologise to those who were denied this opportunity but Willetts has spoken before and he will speak again. Ahead of the strikes on November 30th, the present moment calls for more innovative and immediate tactics.”
More photos can be seen here: http://tinyurl.com/bqschp9
Occupy London has taken over a huge abandoned office block in the borough of Hackney belonging to the investment bank UBS in a move it describes as a ‘public repossession.’ 
Overnight on Thursday, a dozen activists from Occupy London, campaigning for social and economic justice as part of the global fight for real democracy, gained access to the building and secured it, giving them a legal claim on the space.
The multimillion pound complex, which has been empty for several years, is the group’s third space and its first building, adding to its two camps at St Paul’s Courtyard – near the London Stock Exchange in the heart of the City – and at Finsbury Square (borough of Islington).
Occupy London supporter Jack Holburn said: “Whilst over 9,000 families were kicked out of their homes in the last three months for failing to keep up mortgage payments – mostly due to the recession caused by the banks – UBS and others financial giants are sitting on massive abandoned properties.
“As banks repossess families’ homes, empty bank property needs to be repossessed by the public. Yesterday we learned that the Government has failed to create public value out of banking failure. We can do better. We hope this is the first in a wave of ‘public repossessions’ of property belonging to the companies that crashed the global economy.”
The Bank of Ideas
The group say the space will be reopened on Saturday morning as the ‘Bank of Ideas.’  An events programme is being lined up, including talks from Palestinian activists, comedy from Josie Long and a session led by trader Alessio Rastani, who sent shockwaves through the media following a provocative interview on the Eurozone crisis. 
Sarah Layler of Occupy London added: “The Bank of Ideas is an educational space where people will be able to trade in ideas and creativity rather than cash. We will also make space available for those that have lost their nurseries, community centres and youth clubs to savage Government spending cuts.”
The Bank of Ideas is a non-residential occupation – so visitors are asked not to bring their sleeping bags. The space will be free from drugs and alcohol from the start, as per Occupy London’s safer space policy. 
 The complex is owned by Sun Street Properties Ltd, a wholly-owned subsidiary of UBS. The property includes 5-29 Sun Street, 5-17 Crown Place, 8-16 Earl Street and 54 Wilson Street. Seedl.dropbox.com/u/136370/bankofideas/ubs…, http://dl.dropbox.com/u/136370/bankofideas/shoreditch-ubs.PDF,dl.dropbox.com/u/136370/bankofideas/pla…, http://dl.dropbox.com/u/136370/bankofideas/os-map.pdf anddl.dropbox.com/u/136370/bankofideas/lan…
 UBS Bank, which describes itself as a ‘premier global financial services firm offering wealth management, investment banking, asset management and business banking services’ was the subject of a $60bn bailout from the Swiss government in 2008 after piling up the biggest losses of any European lender from the global credit crisis. Since the time, the bank has cut thousands of jobs.
In September, a 31-year old trader at UBS was arrested by City of London police in connection with rogue trading that has cost the bank an estimated $2bn. The New York Times wrote an article in response called ‘At UBS, It’s the Culture That’s Rogue’ (see www.nytimes.com/2011/09/24/business/glo…? pagewanted=all)
The Financial Mail ran the headline ‘UBS grabs £1bn from pensioners’ with reference to a controversial form of secured lending that was sold aggressively to pensioners (see dl.dropbox.com/u/136370/bankofideas/ubs….)
The bank has nine offices in the UK including three in London.
A recent report showed a total of 9,200 homes in the UK were repossessed by banks in the third quarter of the year, a rise on the previous three months (see www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-15672123). Figures are expected to deteriorate further.
 Nearest tubes for the Occupy London Stock Exchange (OccupyLSX) site are St. Pauls, Mansion House and Canon Street; buses 4, 11, 15, 23, 25, 26, 100, 242; do check Transport For London website for delays and closures at journeyplanner.tfl.gov.uk/user/XSLT_TRI…. The new Bank of Ideas is just down the road from the Occupy London Finsbury Square (OccupyLFS) space, which is near Moorgate; buses 141, 153, 205, 21, 214, 43
 On Sunday 16th October at an assembly of over 500 people on the steps of St Paul’s Cathedral, Occupy London collectively agreed the initial statement below. Please note, like all forms of direct democracy, the statement will always be a work in progress. Details at occupylsx.org/?page_id=575
 Bringing together a diverse range of people, Occupy London’s Stock Exchange, Finsbury Square (OccupyLFS) and Bank of Ideas are part of more than 30 occupations happening in towns and cities across the UK and over 1,000 actions worldwide coming together under the banner of “United For Global Change” calling for true democracy. Occupy London is supported by groups including UK Uncut, the London-based Assembly of the Spanish 15M movement and many others. It has already received phenomenal interest, from the public and media in the UK and around the world, with the OccupyLSX facebook group now more than 31,000 members.
 More information on UK occupations at www.occupybritain.co.uk/protest-details