Friday, 8 February 2013

Sussex University Occupation Message of Solidarity from Member of Staff

Students from Sussex Against Privatisation have occupied the conference centre at the top of Bramber House at Sussex University. They are protesting against plans from the university management to privatise services which will affect 10% or 235 members of staff, by selling off a list of services to private companies.

As we have explained elsewhere, a profit-driven private company will run public services with profit in mind, leading to worse staff conditions and worse services to students. The statement of the occupation rejects the division of students and staff into customers and producers. Strong links have been built between students and staff through the campaign.

Unison steward (speaking in a personal capacity) and Socialist Party member Shona gave a message of support today to the occupiers, highlighting the need for a campaign within the trade unions to provide a fighting lead in this struggle. Her statement and a video of her speech is below.

Sussex management have brought this on themselves by refusing to negotiate and by unilaterally driving through these proposals. This occupation will be a significant boost to the campaign among students and staff, with its energy inspiring the staff to fight within the unions for a strike ballot.

Click image for video
Message of Solidarity - click here for video

This is a message of solidarity to the student occupation at Sussex in opposition to plans to privatise 10% of jobs on campus to be run for private profit.

As a campus worker, and member of the local Unison branch committee, I and others have been waging an ongoing struggle within our union branch to see the staff directly affected by the privatisation proposals put in democratic control of an industrial campaign against the privatisation proposals – up to and including strike action if management refuse to back down.

The local leadership of our branch, and the regional and national bureaucracy of our union, has made this incredibly difficult – despite our best efforts we dissenting activists have still not succeeded – but we remain confident in the correctness of our strategy, built with advice and support from Socialist Party activists with years of experience of fighting to win against both the bosses and the reactionary elements of the trade unions, and its’ ability to defeat this and future attacks.

The success of London Met Unison in defeating so-called “shared services” privatisation proposals through a mass campus campaign, with the union side led democratically by the affected workers, and with a concerted plan in place to organise sustained strike action if management forged ahead with their plans, is absolutely applicable to the Sussex context and I refute anyone who claims we are fundamentally different or less able to achieve such a success than LMU.

Without the determination of student and dissenting union activists here at Sussex the campaign against this sell-off may well have been strangled at birth. That students have occupied the conference centre is strategically significant, and the demands issued to management are clear and necessary. You have posed the question of who this University is for through this occupation, and now staff must do the same by organising on a mass democratic basis in preparation for playing our strongest card – taking strike action.

So please, when you engage with staff during this occupation, please refute the myths and misinformation being spread by those in our unions who don’t have the stomach for a fight, and make these strategic demands loud and clear:

1. The creation of a democratic strike committee of affected staff and branch officers of all three unions – NO to a tiny group of branch secretaries calling all the shots!

2. For a joint union, time-bound demand that management halt the privatisation proposals or agree to match University terms and conditions and have no compulsory redundancies for the life time of the new contract – to organise strike ballots asap if no response is received or these demands (which can form the basis of a legal industrial dispute) are not met.

3. To organise for every member of affected staff to pledge to vote for strike action if the identity of their employer is changed (as done at LMU. The precedent for this as another dispute – Barnet Unison Local Government branch)

4. NO to concessionary bargaining – for the representation of the interests ALL workers, young and old, directly affected and next-on-the-list. This is the thin end of the wedge and we must stop it completely.

Best of luck in your occupation, you are showing the way and I hope we can follow you in militant action against these appalling plans.

In solidarity,


Unison University of Sussex branch officer (personal capacity)
Brighton and Hove Socialist Party activist