Sussex University anti-outsourcing struggle escalates

Sussex University anti-outsourcing struggle escalates

The anti-privatisation campaign at the University of Sussex is gathering strength - and there are signs university management are feeling the pressure.

The student-led occupation of the Bramber House conference centre is now 6 weeks old. Monday 25th March has been called as a national demonstration against the privatisation and marketisation of universities. At the time of writing, nearly 900 people are 'attending' the Facebook event, while free coaches are being laid on from London. In the build-up to Monday's mass demonstration, management have attempted to clamp down.

On Tuesday evening, private security hired by university management attempted to impose a checkpoint to conduct bag searches and student ID checks on the occupation. This led to an academic speaker being denied entrance. The occupiers, in line with their policy of "peaceful non-compliance" resisted. One occupier was grabbed by the neck and thrown to the floor, but student reinforcements arrived and security withdrew. The established arrangements of open access between 8am and 10pm were preserved.

On the same day, the university's senior communications officer sent an email to all schools claiming that a survey on attitudes to privatisation being conducted by student paper the Badger was in breach of university rules, and urging staff not to co-operate. This was understood by students as clear contempt for freedom of the press. It has also been reported that a student who wrote a letter of complaint to management has been fined £100. The fine was subsequently commuted to a mandatory seminar on the “ethical lines relating to the boundaries of ‘fair comment’ in polemical communications”. The student's offending remarks were reported to be suggesting that a manager's job title should be “director of corporate tyranny and human suffering”.

These incidents follow threats to staff for attending campaign or union meetings, bans on wearing yellow badges in opposition to outsourcing, and management attempts to prevent union reps including campaign logos in their internal emails. These attacks on freedom of association, freedom of expression and freedom of the press fly in the face of the university's claims to welcome dissent and dialogue, and contravene rights supposedly guaranteed in the university statutes. The occupation responded by taking over the Bramber House kitchen, part of the lucrative catering buisness which is facing outsourcing (see photo, top). Occupy Sussex tweeted:

Management attempted to restrict access, so tonight we have expanded the occupation. Escalation brings escalation. Bring on #Mar25

Meanwhile, academics and support staff from the departments of anthropology and international relations have written statements of support, while a local MP has tabled an early day motion in parliament. The national demonstration is scheduled for 1pm, Monday 25th March, Library Square, University of Sussex, Falmer.

Comments

Joseph Kay
Mar 21 2013 10:15

Incensed at an “abusive email” from a student suggesting that Sussex University managers are ruthlessly focussed on making money, the said managers decided to fine the student £100.

However, following a successful campaign by Sussex Students’ Union newspaper The Badger, the sentence has been commuted to “attending a one-to-one seminar with an academic on the boundaries of ‘fair comment’ in polemical communications.”

The controversy – in which someone emailed a Big Manager On Campus (‘BMOC’) to suggest, “Perhaps an apt job title for you would be Director of Corporate Tyranny and Human Suffering,” – came at the end of a week which saw a Palestinian court hand a man a one-year prison sentence for insulting Palestinian Authority president Mahmoud Abbas, and a European Court of Human Rights ruling which found that France had violated an activist’s freedom of expression by fining him for showing an abusive placard to Nicolas Sarkozy.

Makes you proud to be British, doesn’t it, that such restriction of free speech doesn’t happen in our country. Well DON’T SPEAK TOO SOON, because it’s time for:

This term’s Sussex Human Rights Roundup:

  • Trade union staff ordered to stop publicly opposing the privatisation of their members’ jobs (this one got us a mention in Private Eye which made my fortnight)
  • Members of the University Council instructed not to talk to trade unions and having their mailing list filtered
  • Academic departments told not to give the oxygen of publicity to our estimable Badger
  • The University hires big burly private security men who stand around looking tough
  • University Registrar John Duffy gives a hostile ‘open Q&A’ session accompanied by bodyguards, and refuses to be filmed by UniTV because he “wasn’t prepared”
  • University Registrar John Duffy has a chummy meeting with the Sussex Conservative Society

http://gabrielquotes.org.uk/2013/03/21/strasbourg/

Joseph Kay
Mar 21 2013 11:00

Bit of back-of-an envelope maths:

42 days in occupation
times 4 private security on 12 hour shifts
times 2 for 24 hours
times £100 daily wage
times 2 for what the uni must be paying the security agency
= £67,200

Plus loss of the "purpose-designed Conference Centre"...

Delegate rate of about £40
Times average 100 people
times average once a week conference (6)
= £24,000

So as a ballpark figure, it's cost them £90,000 so far. Which isn't even half the VC's salary (£225k ish), but ain't peanuts. Escalate escalate escalate.

Joseph Kay
Mar 21 2013 12:44
Steven.
Mar 21 2013 22:13

Promising stuff, thanks for the updates and solidarity!

Joseph Kay
Mar 22 2013 09:08

More bungled clampdown:

Occupy Sussex wrote:
Fire safety officers just came and looked around the Occupation after reports from 'an anonymous source' that students had glued locks, covered fire alarms and smoke detectors, barricaded doors and burnt the place. After checking the space, they declared it safe. In fact, the fire officers were rather annoyed that their time had been wasted. Once again it feels great to have the moral high ground.

...

Someone wrote:
It is believed that whoever made the false report was hoping that we would not let the fire officers in and they would then issue a prohibition order, making the occupation illegal.

The opposite happened; we have their blessing and have exchanged contact info, so we can liase on fire safety.

https://www.facebook.com/permalink.php?story_fbid=318061144982600&id=298629560259092

Joseph Kay
Mar 22 2013 09:11

And more video propaganda...

Lord of the Rings epicness:

And Pope communism (???):

NATIONAL STUDENT DEMO-SUSSEX from roxanna on Vimeo.

Joseph Kay
Mar 22 2013 09:28
Someone wrote:
Interesting link between [Sussex VC Michael] Farthing and Sodexo - in 2010 Farthing became the non-executive director of the Brighton and Sussex University Hospitals NHS Trust, of which Royal Sussex County Hospital is part, and the choice for catering and cleaning outsourcing at both the hospital and Sussex is Sodexo. As a member of the trust's Safety and Quality committee, it's not much of a stretch to assume he had some say in assessing the quality of Sodexo's service. Anyone else have the words 'corporation kickback' come to mind after reading this?
Joseph Kay
Mar 22 2013 09:45

Also on the incompetent clampdown front, private security tried to refuse access to parents with kids. This is one ten year-old's account, while apparently they also told people they were "bad parents" and threatened to call social services.

Caiman del Barrio
Mar 22 2013 19:38

Hello guys, since you mention Sussex Hospital, thought I should warn you that Matthew Kershaw is taking up the newly created Texas Chainsaw Massacre position there in April. Expect Lewisham round 2: http://www.theargus.co.uk/news/10298499.Sussex_hospitals_face___30m_cuts/

Joseph Kay
Mar 23 2013 21:25

Latest: management have closed the meeting house - a popular hub for union/political meetings - due to 'flooding'. Staff and students say there's no flooding, just management shutting down meeting spaces.

Joseph Kay
Mar 23 2013 22:37

Apparenty management have also now removed the shower heads from the showers the occupiers have been using (link).

It's all dirty tricks and petty autocracy around here.

Bloomsbury Ben
Mar 24 2013 15:01

This is one of the posters produced for the protest..

Taken from here (Facebook): https://www.facebook.com/pages/Occupy-Sussex/298629560259092

Joseph Kay
Mar 24 2013 16:50

Does anyone fancy trawling the facebook and creating a libcom gallery of all the Sussex propaganda? There's been some really good stuff

wojtek
Mar 24 2013 18:51
Joseph Kay
Mar 28 2013 08:59
Joseph Kay wrote:
Bit of back-of-an envelope maths:

42 days in occupation
times 4 private security on 12 hour shifts
times 2 for 24 hours
times £100 daily wage
times 2 for what the uni must be paying the security agency
= £67,200

Plus loss of the "purpose-designed Conference Centre"...

Delegate rate of about £40
Times average 100 people
times average once a week conference (6)
= £24,000

So as a ballpark figure, it's cost them £90,000 so far. Which isn't even half the VC's salary (£225k ish), but ain't peanuts. Escalate escalate escalate.

Apparently in court they're claiming losses of £135,000 for the conference centre and £80,000 for private security. Reverse-engineering those numbers gives:

135,000 / 40 / 7 = 482 conference attendees per week. That seems on the high end of plausible, but possible.

80,000 / (7 x 7) = £1,632/day on security. As that's 8 people on 12 hour shifts making about £100/day, that sounds about right, with the agency taking double the security's take-home pay.

Which remarkably means the occupation has cost management £225,000, which iirc is exactly VC Farthing's salary.

The uni made an £11.3m surplus last year: http://www.sussex.ac.uk/aboutus/annualreview/2012/factsandfigures