Sussex students occupy library - again!

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Pepe
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Nov 29 2006 15:09
Sussex students occupy library - again!

On newswire here

PDF of Autonomous (the university anatchist group) "communique" (roll eyes) http://sunas.objectis.net/pdfflyers/communique.pdf here

Around 80 Sussex students gathered in the library just before the closing time of 9:30pm last night. We were offered a meeting with 2 of the university management which we decided to accept, and so they came into the library and attempted to get us to leave through alternately guilt tripping us ("the staff feel intimidated".... "this occupation is costing the university £20,000") and seeming sympathetic to our demands. Following this meeting we decided to stay in the library all night, and then we got on with the fun!

There were workshops on knitting and facepainting (and probably other ones I missed)and film showings, and a lot of people used the time to just do work.

The management told us the library staff felt intimidated, which would be baffling seeing as one of our demands is better pay and conditions for staff. One security guard was quite sympathetic and quietly assured us that no one was actually intimidated cool

I personally gave up at 5am and went home to bed, but apparently 40 people were in the library until it opened this morning smile)

Thora
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Nov 29 2006 15:17

Good stuff Jess cool

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Ed
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Nov 29 2006 15:33

Yeah, the rest of us (non-scab wink ) occupiers stayed til library opening (8:45am) where we were met by a local photographer from the local paper (way to miss a photo opportunity Jess!).

I'm gonna write up a little thing on my (highly important) thoughts on the occupation in a bit :biggrin:

Pepe
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Nov 29 2006 15:49

Ahhh thats ok, I don't think i'd have looked my best after staying up the whole night (there was no way I could get to sleep in the library), and of course I didn't have make up on, following the facepainting workshop. I'm not up for class stuggle without concealer sad

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Joseph Kay
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Nov 29 2006 15:54
Jess wrote:
class stuggle without concealer

you're just full of taglines ...

anyway nice one sussex! you're still not as cool as the french though black bloc cool

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madashell
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Nov 29 2006 17:19
Joseph K. wrote:
full of taglines

Tagline wink

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Ed
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Nov 29 2006 17:39

Right, here's my thoughts on the occupation. Hopefully other people involved in Sussex Autonomous (the campus anarchist group) who were at the occupation will say their piece but input from anyone would be really well appreciated.

Anyway, this occupation had about 80 people at the begining though people left throughout the night and by morning we were down to about 40-50. Management played a whole bunch of dirty tricks to fuck things up; 1st and 2nd floors had their windows left open to make us cold, the lights on those floors were turned off and we weren't allowed up their by the hefty security (who also happen to also do the door at the club I work at! This Saturday's shift should be interesting eek ) that they'd drafted in on the night (as we'd informed the library of our plans beforehand and fliered for it openly - a dubious decision in itself).

The main problems I'd say we encountered though were:
1) Lack of immediate momentum. Two or three people left at the beginning and I think that immediately hurt morale. Even though it did pick up again, so it obviously wasn't too bad, it still could have been avoided.

Firstly, I think we should have outright refused to talk to senior management. We knew they would have had nothing interesting to say, that whole Q&A was an attempt by them to talk us out of occupying. As a result, it slowed everything down as they gave 'assurances' that 'processes were in the process'. I have a feeling we should either have ignored them outright or contained their Q&A by having one of us chair the discussion and had a time cap on it. Secondly, we should have had a clear plan of what we needed and immediately set those working groups up. We should have had a clear idea on what workshops we wanted, what working groups were needed and got cracking with it. We did it eventually, but it took a little while and, again, I think we lost some much needed momentum.

I'd also like to add here my thoughts on consensus: its rubbish for groups over ten. Its even worse for a group of 80. IMO, for groups of that size you need discussion and then a straight majority vote. We had that at the first library occupation and it worked much better (even though it was a bigger occupation). For me, consensus in groups of this size at best slow things down unbearably, and at worse let the minority hold the majority at ransom. I'd also like to say there wasn't consensus about using consensus, I was against it. So how was it even allowed to go through if not with majority voting?

2) We weren't able to use the library. We weren't at all prepared for the idea that the uni might up the stakes. We were stopped from using the upper floors, which on reflection I think we could have done if we'd held our meetings upstairs. I think it was easier for them to stop us from going upstairs then it would've been for them to remove us from there. If they were to try and physically move us, then they would've been the ones escalating confrontation. If we'd tried to force our way upstairs, we would.

Because of this, our learn-in couldn't quite make it as a learn-in coz most of the library's lights were turned off (coz we weren't in most of it) as were the computers. As such we couldn't use it for study (or anything else even). In future, we should attempt to spread ourselves throughout as much of the area as possible without leaving small groups isolated.

3) Staff. We got mixed views from the staff. Some staff were really pissed off at us. Though this isn't wholly representative of the library staff's views (one of the staff is an anarchist, I think. Can someone confirm?). it is, or at least could be, representative of some of the staff's feelings towards us and it needs to be remedied (but I go into it in more detail below). We were also denounced by our student union and, I think, one staff union (though I'm unsure which one).

Also, just a quick thoughts on occupations in general drawing on the experiences from the last two. At the Innovation Centre occupation, we let some people in coz they gave us some shitty sob story about saving Africans or trees or something else that lefties like. They then locked themselves in their office and let all their mates in. We need to reiterate that in those sorts of lock-ins, its 'nothing in, nothing out' as it puts everyone inside at risk. We also need to sort out our outreach as management (and seemingly now, our student union) will always make us out to be a tiny bunch of lefties taking action on a whim rather than to improve our education. The way they shut down campus a few days before dissertation deadlines after our last occupation is a perfect example of this. Stuff like mass emails to students, our own newsheet/leaflets would help (though I do feel we're getting pretty good at this anyway).

So overall, I think we need to be far more prepared when doing occupations. We need to be more prepared for our university to be cunts to us. I mean, they might have thought it was cute the first time, but after the second and third ones I think they've started to get really pissed off. We need to know what we need for an occupation and what to do when we get in there. We also need to be prepared for any shitstorm afterwards.

The more important problem is the staff question. It seems more clear than ever to me that we need to organise across the university, not just amongst students (which is the reason that Sussex Autonomous changed its name from Autonomous Students). This not only would help with stuff like staff support of student action but would also help in making these campus groups last. As it is, a lot of Autonomous are laving this summer, and I'll leave the next summer. Organising amongst students is hard because of the high turnover, a problem we wouldn't encounter if we had more staff in the group (I'm sure you lot in Manchester EWN have found this). It would also be useful to push forward the idea that staff not supporting student campaigns is the flipside to students not supporting staff campaigns and therefore handle the (very real) inconvenience better.

We obviously need to open a dialogue between staff and students. But how? I mean, opening Autonomous to campus staff is a start, and maybe trying to start some sort of joint staff/student publication. But how much good do people think that would do? Do people have anymore ideas for a slightly pro-active ideas for organising for more staff/student co-operation? Any thoughts? Experiences? Manchester EWN, I'm looking at you! tongue

Anyway, this is well long and I've used far too much grandiose language for something which isn't quite France '68 grin I'm gonna post this on the sussex autonomous list and see if any of them will post their feelings. Until then, you lot will have to do! wink

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Joseph Kay
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Nov 29 2006 18:04
madashell wrote:
Joseph K. wrote:
full of taglines

Tagline ;)

well thats me PWN3D!1!!

adarcar
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Nov 29 2006 18:22

hey,
maybe this is the time for me to start posting and stop lurking around here...
just to say that I'll post some stuff tonight. For now I think there is some interesting stuff you wrote there Ed, and some stuff that might be improving soon as well. More tonight:)

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jef costello
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Nov 29 2006 18:53

This look good to me. LAst time iirc the library staff had to stay late because you were there, I'm guessing the pre-warnings were at least in part aimed at stopping them being stuck there unpaid. Although if you'd done it where I was making I'd have closed up the issue desk and left you lot to it. In terms of staff I reckon you need to go at first for passive support. Most library staff are on short term contracts so they have a reasonably high turnover to and they will also take the viewpoint that as there is such a high student turnover they are making a stand and living with the consequences in a way that you are not. Going for better conditions for them is an excellent start. It's good to hear about stuff like this.

Pepe
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Nov 29 2006 19:03

1) I think we were right to go ahead with the Q&A session, I think it made us appear more reasonable and less mental, and I think alot of good things were said by students - this also helped occupiee solidarity. I think you're right though that one of us should have chaired it, and we should have remained in control of it. IIRC we decided before that we'd do this, but failed to actually choose a chair or anything..... roll eyes

Workshops - should have been more prior planning, a time table drawn up in preperation for the occupation. I was lucky that the workshops I wanted to do happened anyway, but there didn't seem to be a great variety. Can someone tell which ones went ahead apart from knitting & facepainting, and were there any filmshowings besides Can Dialectics Break Bricks?

I share your felings about consensus being undemocratic. If we were making any contentious decisions this would have been an issue, but there seemed to be easy consensus anyway. (apart from about whether to use consensus eek)

2)I was really dissapointed that we couldn't use more of the library - I couldn't use the computers to find out where books were, and the lights were off around most of the shelving areas. I don't know how you managed to get computers and lights last year? I think there was a lot of confusion about what was going on at 9:30, we should have had a meeting place known beforehand. Probably upstairs to get more of the library, but downstairs is more visible for students who don't know about the occupation who are leaving.

3)I think one of the library staff is a sort of ex-anarcho, got too many responsibilities now but still sympathetic kinda deal. How many library staff had to stay? I just saw one I think, and she did look proper pissed off sad Most of the people keeping an eye on us were (I think) contract security, or university staff who were meant to be working anyway.
Where did you hear that we were denounced by a trade union, can anyone confirm this?!eek

4) Why oh why was the mass email not sent out?!!? I'm really annoyed about this. We have a list of email adresses of eveyr student and someone was delegated to send out an email. It didn't get done. I reckon sending one out in a few days explaining why we occupied etc. would definately be a good idea.

5) Working with univeristy staff is definately what I want Autonomous to be about, maybe at the meeting tommorow we'll talk about some ideas of how to do this. I think being active in radical politics would be more risky for staff. i mean its expected of students, and theres a lot of us, but can you imagine any staff coming to an occupation for example? This is an issue. I think a publication giving a voice to students and staff is something to think about. We've been thinking about alternative media anyway, and I'll bear in mind actively trying to get staff involved next time we talk about that.

Mike Harman
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Nov 29 2006 19:36

Staff may well have issues/grievances they aren't able to take action around, just speaking to them about what they might be and offering to publicise them might well help.

rasputin
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Nov 29 2006 20:26

nice one cool

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madashell
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Nov 29 2006 20:47

Nice one, sounds pretty cool smile

Not much useful to say, though I'd definately agree with catch on this, the best way you guys can overcome any hostility from the staff is to find out what their grievances are and see if you can work together on them.

What do the staff think of the demand for extended opening hours?

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jef costello
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Nov 29 2006 21:01

Oh yeah, in terms of lights etc, someone sympathetic might tell you how to turn them back on or leave controls unlocked etc if you're subtle about. I'd have done that at my work if someone had spoken to me quietly.

Mike Harman
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Nov 29 2006 21:46
madashell wrote:
What do the staff think of the demand for extended opening hours?

Yeah, see if that was raised at my work I wouldn't be too happy, it's already awkward hours as it is - it's as much a demand to the library staff as management.

Something like additional library staff would probably be really popular though.

Pepe
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Nov 29 2006 22:04
Mike Harman wrote:
Yeah, see if that was raised at my work I wouldn't be too happy, it's already awkward hours as it is - it's as much a demand to the library staff as management.

Good point, we really should have discussed our demands with staff, and ideally drafted them together. The whole thing was quite rushed and disorganised.

9:30 really is too early for the library to shut though, so whats the answer?

adarcar
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Nov 29 2006 23:09

Hey all again,

1) I think one of the really important things to do during the start of an occupation is to have a clear plan as to what is going to happen. This includes whether we stay upstairs or downstairs but we also need to have a basic structure and an agenda for the first meeting. I really felt that we were going in circles, revolving around nothingness, for the first 20 minutes.
I thought meeting with the Pro Vice chancellors was a waste of time, and I think it can be really counter-productive unless people know their shit and how to reply and ask them questions. They weren't too succesful in splitting us though... I agree, one of us should have facilitated that.

There should've been more workshops. I think most people who were involved in planning were too tired for organising any...
The only film shown was can dialectics break bricks...then again, we could only watch them on laptops...not much of a cinema...smile

Mass meetings are shit anyway so I won't really comment on this(I know it's not that simple, I'm still working out exactly what I think here). Suffice to say that they really depend on who's chairing them. Surely this has to point to their limitations as to how democratic they can actually be...

2) I really agree with Ed's points here. I Also think that we hadn't made it clear enough that the occupation would start when the library closes, not at 7pm (I guess we all expected them to close the library before 7pm).
Last year we gathered downstairs and then moved upstairs for the meeting. That was good.
It was always gonna be up to them whether we'd be able to use the lights/computers/books etc. I guess last year we were lucky.

3)Staff...there's no real staff at the occupation. It was only this one woman. This makes it very hard to judge what staff in general thinks. She was pissed off though. The security guards were either on campus (duty anyway) or from an agency ( they would have a job somewhere else no?).

4) Real pity about the mass e-mail. As far as I know several people tried to send them, but alas, to no avail...(they must've done something to stop these) I think it's vital infos are distributed though (yea, e-mail if posssible) but definately flyers.

5)I really don't think staff would take part in actions, although I really do think it'd be useful to communicate with them (I'd love Autonomous to become a group for both staff and students).

Seriously, a lot could've been done better, but not enough people came to the meetings. The planning meetings were often only attended by 5 people and they kept on changing.

In retrospect, publicising it in advance didn't help that much... although it may have made the demographic slightly more diverse. We have to remember that many of the usual suspects couldn't make it because of Faslane blockades...talking pure numbers here though.

It is quite nice to know that we can do occupations even when management knows what's going on though. This could be turned into another victory I think...

Fuck this is long. Sorry if I rambled (pretty sure I did), guess I need some sleep.

xx

Mike Harman
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Nov 30 2006 00:29
Jess wrote:
Good point, we really should have discussed our demands with staff, and ideally drafted them together.

Yeah I reckon that's a good idea if you want them on-side. In fact I'm really surprised with you and Ed involved that you didn't.

Quote:
9:30 really is too early for the library to shut though, so whats the answer?

You want something winnable. If you can find 3-5 things that staff and students agree on and you reckon you could actually get (at my place - not a university - it'd be the shit furniture, crappy computers and lack of proper socialising space) that's better than a laundry list of things that are going to cause friction between students and staff and you might not get anyway. If it's unpopular with the staff, you're better off picking something that you can all agree on against the management and actually get changed, rather than something that might pit you against each other.

Having said that, some people might not mind working late if they get paid unsocial hours rates or something (say 1.5 time after 8pm). Or if no existing staff want to work later they could employ special evening staff maybe. I've also heard of one library being open 24 hours but only staffed upto a certain point, with security only during graveyard hours (which it sounds like they already have). It ought to be easy enough to find out the arrangements at other colleges who open later so you've got something to compare it with.

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madashell
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Nov 30 2006 01:02
Mike Harman wrote:
I've also heard of one library being open 24 hours but only staffed upto a certain point, with security only during graveyard hours (which it sounds like they already have).

This is the situation at Liverpool Uni library, though I don't know how the staff feel about it.

I don't think all the staff would necessarily be opposed to later opening hours, there are even some strange, twisted individuals out there who enjoy working nights. Definately something that should be talked about with the library staff before you do any more actions demanding it though, IMO.

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Nov 30 2006 01:07

Adarcar, as you might have guessed when you wrote it, I've got a few issues with what you said. For instance, you can't just say "mass meetings are shit" and then say you "won't really comment" on them coz you've already commented on them by saying they're shit! Anywho, I don't see how mass actions can be organised without mass meetings so there tongue

adarcar wrote:
It was always gonna be up to them whether we'd be able to use the lights/computers/books etc.

I'm not sure this is true. Like I said, if we had gone upstairs for our first meeting then they would have had to move us and thus escalated the situation (which I don't think they were/are prepared to do). Because we stayed downstairs, all they had to do was contain us. Sure they could turn the computers off, but we would still have been able to use more of the library for things like study, films, workshops etc. Agree with you on pretty much everything else though.

Catch, those are all brilliant ideas. With regards that, what do people think about concentrating on the library? Not action wise (I think we might want to give it a rest for a bit before we try that pony again), but in terms of something to campaign around.

I mean, its something all students are fucked off about and has seen staff getting messed around with (thinking specifically of redundancies without replacements here but there was other stuff I can't remember off the top of my head), maybe a specific 'Save the library' campaign with some real winnable aims that we could try and draw up with library staff?

ticking_fool
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Nov 30 2006 09:28
Quote:
This is the situation at Liverpool Uni library, though I don't know how the staff feel about it.

Fairly pissed off because they didn't get any new staff or any extra pay beyond the hourly rate.

Pepe
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Nov 30 2006 12:07
adarcar wrote:

4) Real pity about the mass e-mail. As far as I know several people tried to send them, but alas, to no avail...(they must've done something to stop these) I think it's vital infos are distributed though (yea, e-mail if posssible) but definately flyers.

Weird, because people are still sending out spam about gigs and stuff using those addresses. Maybe its only possible to send it out from a univeristy email address, thats the only explanation I can think of :?

Longer opening hours needn't affect library staff as books can be checked out and returned by the user these days....

BB
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Nov 30 2006 13:25

Good on you SA, discussion and action are taking place, you're learning from possible mistakes, and i'd go with what Catch an Jack are saying, in the view of getting staff onside.

Have you approached anyone who was involved with previous occupations, at sussex specifically and any other occupations in general, give aufheben a shout about the former.

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Steven.
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Nov 30 2006 15:50
Jack wrote:
Or you could include a demand for more stadd + better anti-social hours pay as part of the basic demand - I'd be wary at anything like encouraging them towards automation, as it's generally a way to reduce service and cut costs.

Yeah this is a problem. I used to work at a uni library, which was often 24-hours, but overnight it was just self check-in with security. Increasing automation is a good way of cost and job/service cutting. That said it'd probably happen anyway.

Re: jobs and wages, are uni library staff subject to national agreements? I thought that they were, in which case wage demands would be tricky.

Could any of you get a part time job in the library? it's a good job to have as a student, and it'd be useful from an organising POV.

I would think staff participating in an occupation would be severely screwed; so I wouldn't expect any to actively participate (unless one of you gets a job there - and then it'd be interesting to see how far you could push it, if you got the sack, etc., which wouldn't be so bad for a part time uni job, could be good from publicity POV.)

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Steven.
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Nov 30 2006 15:50

But as a general point is good to see news of people's activities on here, then discussion and seeing what people have learned. It's what this site is for. red n black star

Mike Harman
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Nov 30 2006 16:09
Ed wrote:

Catch, those are all brilliant ideas.

That's why you should speak to library staff wink

Quote:
I mean, its something all students are fucked off about and has seen staff getting messed around with (thinking specifically of redundancies without replacements here but there was other stuff I can't remember off the top of my head),

Yeah stuff like that is really annoying for existing staff, and students would have to be keeping a close eye to notice it as well.

Quote:
maybe a specific 'Save the library' campaign with some real winnable aims that we could try and draw up with library staff?

Specific aims is good, and drawing them up jointly is good. It might mean you don't do actions in the library for a while (or at least not all-night occupations), but that's going to get trickier anyway I guess.

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Steven.
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Nov 30 2006 16:12

yeah - i mean it might get you more leverage to say occupy central admin/management buildings of the university during work time, rather than the library as a symbolic thing? Or bits of it that make profit? (just an idea...)

Mike Harman
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Nov 30 2006 16:23
John. wrote:
I would think staff participating in an occupation would be severely screwed;

Yeah you can count on pretty much zero chance of that happening. Unless there were more like a couple of thousand instead of hundred of you doing the occupation I don't see it at all, and even then only if they could plausibly deny active involvement. Having said that, at our place staff been able to help out really openly with student petitions/posters (openly to the extent our manager found out we were doing it and started running 'round getting signatures more than we were...), and other more basic low level stuff like that. It's not a university though so not that comparable.

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Nov 30 2006 20:06
John. wrote:
I would think staff participating in an occupation would be severely screwed; so I wouldn't expect any to actively participate

No, I'd be really surprised to see that happen. I guess my aim would be to get it to a stage where staff viewed student campaigns/actions in the same way we view theirs.

John. wrote:
it might get you more leverage to say occupy central admin/management buildings of the university during work time, rather than the library as a symbolic thing? Or bits of it that make profit? (just an idea...)

Yeah, this library occupation wasn't really supposed to be a symbolic thing. I mean, the aim was to occupy it, keep it open and use it for, amongst other things, studying. We (quite naively on reflection) highly underestimated senior management's reaction and as such weren't able to do so. And as Jess said, the action cost them £20k+ so not wholly symbolic. But yeah, central management should probably be the next target.

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jef costello
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Dec 1 2006 10:58

Places that are open nights with only security staff require security staff to learn how to use the issue desk computers, they do not get paid extra for doing so.

Either that or they don't leave self-issue machines running.

Also Sussex doesn't have an issue desk that can be isolated and locked iirc, although I suppose they could have security on the desk.

Incidentally the default code to turn off self issue machines is **316 #, or maybe ##316*, I figured if we made them look unreliable they wouldn't replace staff with them.

In my experience evening staff are paid significantly less than day staff. looking at 3-4 quid an hour difference. And are often on less secure contracts.

So either ask for anti-social hours bonuses or for parity. Bear in mind staff may have long commutes and don't want to work late even if they get extra.

9.30 is pretty good btw, is it staffed till then?