Thursday 08-10-2015 - 17:16
NUS President addresses crowd in attendance at rally during the Trades Union Congress National Demonstration in Manchester.
On Sunday 4 October, the Trades Union Congress (TUC) North West held a national demonstration against the government’s austerity agenda and attacks on trade unions.
Hosted in Manchester to coincide with the neighbouring Conservative Party Conference, the march began on Oxford Road before it reached its rally point.
Sharing a stage with TUC President Liz Snape, TUC General Secretary Frances O’Grady, Len McCluskey and others, NUS President Megan Dunn attacked the governments contempt towards students and young people: ‘Already the Tories have set to work; abolishing maintenance grants for the poorest students in England, ending entitlement to housing benefit for those aged under 21, ensuring the new so-called living wage doesn’t apply to anyone aged under 25, restricting still further the ability of international students to study and work in the UK, pressing ahead with DSA reforms that could leave many without vital support for their studies, slashing funding to the further education colleges so much that the Public Accounts Committee warns the sector faces ‘meltdown’.
Megan added ‘it is clear that we are yet again seeing the most vulnerable in society expected to shoulder the burden of bad and unnecessary decisions, all over again.’
She went on to praise the support offered by fellow unions, in particular the TUC and UCU: ‘You are the people standing with us on the frontline against this government’s devastating plans. And with this united support, students in their thousands across the country are taking action. We are harnessing every bit of support to spread our message and demonstrate widespread opposition the government’s plans.’
Megan’s appearance at the national demonstration builds on the solidarity shown between the NUS and TUC in recent weeks, with both organisations supporting each other through campaigning against the government’s slashing of the maintenance grants, its draconian trade union bull and its wider unjust austerity agenda.
Following the rally, the crowd marched through the city on a route which circled the Conference Centre before ending at Deansgate.
At the Conservative Party Conference itself NUS’ busy schedule included Megan speaking at fringe events - raising issues including access to higher education; international students and the impact of government policy including the Immigration Bill; the collapse in part-time student numbers; and damaging impact of the proposed scrapping of maintenance grants. Megan also spoke at a joint event that NUS ran with the New Economics Foundation (NEF) which asked ‘can people power kick-start our democracy?’
Poppy Wolfarth from the leadership team of the National Society of Apprentices also spoke at a couple of events, raising concerns about the apprentice minimum wage, inconsistent quality of apprenticeships and the often poor quality information, advice and guidance in schools and colleges. While at the conference, Poppy also spoke with Robert Halfon MP, deputy Chairman of the party, and Sajid Javid, the Business Secretary, and raised the work that the National Society of Apprentices does.