27 November 2013
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE 01.24 27 NOV 2013
Facebook: Occupy Sussex (Page) – Stop the Privatization of Sussex Services (Group)
This evening, Sussex students have reoccupied the Bramber House Conference Centre to protest and fight against the privatisation of services on our campus, and the marketisation of higher education. Privatisation and marketisation have been forced upon students and staff due to the ideological government policy of austerity which is intentionally underfunding higher education.
This occupation is part of ongoing actions at the University of Sussex by students and staff in protest.
Our fight against privatisation has been going on since May 2012. At the University of Sussex, catering services on campus have been privatised to Chartwells’, and management intend to privatise estates and facilities services with Interserve in January 2014. These people are essential staff to the university, as estates and facilities includes security, maintenance, cleaners and porters.
Since catering was privatised, we have seen all new staff employed on worse working conditions than the transferred Sussex staff. They have had sick pay and holiday pay removed and they have to work 48 hours to get overtime pay, compared to 36.5 hours for transferred staff. Not only that, new staff are mainly on zero-hour contracts, a blatant assault on the job security that Sussex University staff enjoy. We condemn the creation of a two-tiered workforce by Chartwells, and we support all staff that wish to fight these injustices against lowest paid workers.
The actions of Chartwells against staff are characteristic of a profit driven enterprise and we expect the same to come from Interserve. We note that the current restructuring of higher education under austerity is encouraging the profit motive to dominate the management of universities.
We are opposed to the marketisation of higher education, as we believe universities should be run in the interest of staff and students. These trends can further be seen in yesterday’s announcement of the sale of the student loan book for those taken out before 1998, with plans in the making to privatise the rest.
This occupation is in solidarity with the ongoing strike action taking place across the Higher and Further Education sectors. The next strike day is taking place on Tuesday 3rd December, which UCU, Unite and Unison have called nationwide in protest against pay cuts, gendered pay inequality and commodification in our public institutions. Manageralism and the current government continue to threaten and attack the public university, promoting the worrying concept of the student as a consumer.
We have chosen to occupy this space, as it is a space operated by Chartwells which provides a significant income stream for them . This space was once run by the university, and today we have liberated this Conference Centre for the wider campus community.
All attempts to engage in meaningful dialogue over this issue have been rejected or pacified; reducing the income for these entities is a last resort to make them listen. This comes only months after the last occupation of this space, which saw the entire campus community reclaim an area closed off to us.
We stand in solidarity with students currently occupying in Birmingham, and those fighting these issues nationwide. Furthermore, we call on students everywhere to fight back against these issues at their own universities and on a national level.
Chartwells operate this space because we allow them to, and today we’ve revoked that licence. We want to use this conference centre as an educational space for the community and welcome all students and staff to join us in the fight against austerity in higher education.
We remain open and interested in dialogue with the university and we would like to meet with management to address our demands without preconditions.
THE OCCUPATION DEMANDS THE FOLLOWING OF SUSSEX UNIVERSITY MANAGEMENT:
1. To bring privatised Chartwells catering and conferencing services back in-house and to revoke the impending contract with Interserve which intends to privatize estates and facilities management in January 2014.
2. A restructuring of democratic procedures of the university, led by students, staff and lecturers with the purpose of re-evaluating channels for holding management accountable, as well as reviewing and extending student and workers’ say in decision making processes.
3. An end to the intimidation that senior and middle management have used to deter students and workers from airing and acting on their concerns.
4. To publicly address the issues of the strike on the 3rd of December, including a written statement calling on the Universities and Colleges Employers Association (UCEA) to meet the demands of the trade unions in question.
5. To issue a public statement demanding more funding for higher education institutions from the government in order to abolish tuition fees and ensure high quality education accessible to all.