Protestors demonstrated outside York College in support of John Westmoreland. Reece Goscinski reports
The on-going campaign to defend the popular lecturer and UCU activist John Westmorland came to a head Wednesday with a demonstration outside of the college. The event saw colleagues, friends and students of John’s show support as he battles through this tough time.
I first met John as a pupil whist studying Modern History at the college. Here, his firebrand lecturing style would have an engrossing effect on his students leading to debates that would often continue outside of the class room. It was John’s covering of the topics anti-Semitism and the First World War that alerted me, and many other students, to the social injustices that lay at the heart of the capitalist system. His ability to agitate and promote debate is what makes him such an influential teacher and one that has garnered respect within the community.
The campaign around bullying is not an issue isolated to the case of John Westmorland. After the demonstration many people reflected upon personal experiences of bullying or others who had been bullied in the workplace. Due to the rapid cuts and austerity measures that have been implemented in both the public and private sectors, first-line managers are being put under increasing pressure to cut costs and increase workloads on staff to meet targets. It is within such a pressured environment that bullying comes to the forefront. This not only has a negative effect on staff and services users, but drives down standards as profits are being put before people.
Recent analysis by the Office for National Statistics highlighted an increase in employees absent from work due to the issues of anxiety, stress and depression. In 2013 it accounted for 15 million absence days compared with 11.8 million in 2010. Many labour market analysers put this down to rising pressure on employees to complete increasing workloads whilst watching their wage packet freeze; a common situation that trade unions are battling on a daily basis.
The John Westmorland campaign has gathered some great local momentum which will no doubt assist the industrial action on 10 July. This strike should not only be a dispute over public sector pay but to highlight the important role public sector workers have for the development of our communities.
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