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From The Socialist newspaper, 13 March 2013

Student occupation continues at Sussex

Now trade unions must take action

Jack Poole, Brighton Socialist Party
Student occupation continues at Sussex 13-3-13, photo Brighton and Hove Socialist Party

Student occupation continues at Sussex 13-3-13, photo Brighton and Hove Socialist Party   (Click to enlarge)

Over four weeks ago, following a mass demonstration of hundreds of students and campus workers at Sussex University against privatisation plans, a management centre was occupied and is still held by students.

Management plans to outsource most non-teaching staff, including catering, will affect 235 workers, meaning their jobs will be open to the vultures in the private sector.

Profit over service

Student occupation continues at Sussex 13-3-13, photo Brighton and Hove Socialist Party

Student occupation continues at Sussex 13-3-13, photo Brighton and Hove Socialist Party   (Click to enlarge)

One such vulture is well-known in the area already - private contractors Sodexo took on the contract of cleaning staff at Sussex County Hospital and shortly after announced nearly 100 redundancies and didn't pay workers over Christmas.

This is the sort of company that is likely to be in discussion with Sussex University management about the contracts on offer. For profit-seeking companies, privatisation represents a new feeding trough; for students and workers it represents an attack on conditions and services.

The ongoing occupation has given the campaign new life - demonstrations, marches and flash occupations are now a common sight on Sussex campus.

One previous demonstration dumped a beheaded effigy of the hated vice-chancellor Michael Farthing outside his office!

Unfortunately, the trade union leadership on campus remains linked to this opposition through words alone. Their dismissal of the prospect of strike action and reluctance to properly organise their members against the plans remains an obstacle for the campaign.

This failure has given credence to the idea that is popular with some layers of student activists - that trade unions are irrelevant, slow to act and immovably bureaucratic.

Student occupation continues at Sussex 13-3-13, photo Brighton and Hove Socialist Party

Student occupation continues at Sussex 13-3-13, photo Brighton and Hove Socialist Party   (Click to enlarge)

Socialist Student members on campus have consistently pointed out that while the leaderships of these unions are proving themselves a block on what's necessary, trade unions are not immovable!

In 2012 the 'sparks', construction electricians in Unite, won a famous victory against pay-cutting construction bosses. Their determined and unofficial rank-and-file organisation and action acted as a lever to force the Unite leadership to call national action - securing the success.

An effort to unionise more of the affected workers, to sweep aside the current leadership and push for strike action would give the campaign the crucial tools it needs to win.

While the student campaign can and is putting enormous pressure on management, strike action would shut down the campus and have more chance of forcing management's hand.

Rank-and-file

This has been recognised by some and a "pop up" union has been organised. This aims to organise the currently un-unionised workers who struggle to afford the membership fee of Unison. This doesn't need to be separated from the existing trade unions - instead it should be used as a lever on the leaderships.

The campaign continues at Sussex. 50 people demonstrated in the snow on 12 March. The message of students and workers uniting to fight privatisation is growing on campus and if realised to its maximum potential, could strike a blow against the profit hungry plans of management and their big business mates.

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In The Socialist 13 March 2013:


Socialist Party news and analysis

Breadline Britain... Kick out the cuts coalition

Scrap the bedroom tax for all!

Welfare Reform Act will impoverish hundreds of thousands

Stop the Con-Dems ripping up our NHS

Them & Us


International socialist news and analysis

Venezuela after Chavez: Which road for the working class?

Portugal: Revolutionary spirit in fighting austerity


Socialist Party feature

Energy starvation and climate change


Socialist history

Three decades on: We want the truth about Orgreave


Socialist Party workplace news

20 March: PCS calls budget-day strike

DfE walkout - huge demonstration of anger

Dundee demo against construction industry blacklisting

Workplace news in brief


Socialist Party reports and campaigns

Victory: TUSC strikes a 'real chord' in Maltby

Student occupation continues at Sussex

Justice for Alfie? Defend the right to protest

Warrington: One rebel defies the pro-cuts Heinz 47

TUSC Gospel Oak byelection rally: Offering an alternative

TUSC leads battle to save Mid-Staffs NHS

London: Save our fire service!

Campaigning against the cuts

Victory for attendance policy campaign at UEL

Sold-out non-sexist comedy night

Building Socialist Students in Manchester

Are you sick of your boss? Join the campaign!


Socialist Party review

Film review: Spirit of '45


 

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