Link to this page: http://www.socialistparty.org.uk/issue/721/14632
Privateers not welcome at Sussex University
Shona McCulloch, Sussex University Unison (personal capacity)
On 10 May 2012 University of Sussex management announced plans to sell off huge swathes of support services on campus by August 2013, privatising over 10% of jobs.
Over 30 key support services would be affected, including security - even in the context of recent reports of sexual assaults on campus - estates, health and safety, and dining - which has recently seen a multi-million pound upgrade.
Unison, UCU and Unite, who represent the affected workers, organised an open meeting on 17 May which hundreds of staff and students attended. Representatives from the trades and student unions spoke before discussion was opened to the floor and the outrage of the crowd was heard in full.
A united campaign was formed involving workers and students - it was agreed that: a vote of no confidence would be held against vice-chancellor Michael Farthing and his executive group; demonstrations would be organised to oppose the two 'tendering' meetings which had been arranged for interested profiteers the following week; and, given the ruthless determination of Sussex management, that strike action would likely be necessary so plans to that effect must proceed with haste within the unions.
Socialist Party members in the campus unions are working to ensure that the necessary preparations are made as soon as possible, and with the full support of and under democratic control of the affected workers.
The two demonstrations were hugely successful, with hundreds attending each and management forced to move the events to alternative venues. Speakers condemned the ideologically driven sell-off and Socialist Party members pointed out that 'support' staff are indeed the foundations of the university, without which it cannot function.
We have proposed that as a first step a 'committee of action' to resist privatisation and defend jobs and conditions should be elected.
This should have a majority of members from among directly affected staff. Members of the Unison, Unite and UCU branch committees should also be present and negotiators should be accountable to this committee and to mass meetings of the catering and estates staff.
It would make sense for the committee of action to co-opt students and other staff as observers to broaden the campaign, and joint demos and meetings should continue as well as linking the campaign to the wider union and anti-cuts movement in Brighton.
An indicative ballot should be held as soon as possible to establish that workers are prepared to resist privatisation by all means necessary including 'work to rule' and strikes, rather than trade jobs and public money for minor concessions for a minority.
All action needs to be decided democratically by the members after discussion with the wider campus community.
The full version of this article is available at: www.socialistparty.org.uk/articles/14592/
In The Socialist 6 June 2012:
Fight the cuts!
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