Against privatisation: statement from Sussex University occupation

Against privatisation: statement from Sussex University occupation

Following a demonstration of over 300 staff and students in opposition to the privatisation of services at Sussex University; a large group of people have occupied the conference centre on the top floor of Bramber House.

In May 2012, the University announced its unilateral decision to sell off most services provided on campus, over 10% of its workforce, to private investors. This announcement came with no student consultation, and next to no consultation with the 235 workers and trade-unions concerned. In the months since, management has failed to offer anymore than a series of “negotiations” and piecemeal Q&A sessions, which only occurred after repeated requests by students and staff, and the conclusions of which it repeatedly proceeded to ignore. The biggest effort from management to secure outside approval was in the form of a report from 3 undisclosed members of Council/Senate, which cannot be expected to represent the interests and variety of opinion of the wider community.

Before we detail our demands we would like to express that the occupation of the conference centre comes as a last recourse for action in order to ensure that student and staff voices are heard. Sussex University Management has made it clear that it is not interested in the views expressed by thousands of its students, staff and lecturers. This occupation comes after every negotiation table, public meeting, demonstration, motion and petition failed to spur management to halt the bidding process. We would like to iterate that this occupation was entirely peaceful from the onset. The attendees and speakers completed their conference as timetabled. The delegates also gave the students a platform to speak about the campaign at Sussex and endorsed both our cause and method.

We stand in opposition to the attempts by university management to unilaterally impose a highly unpopular wave of privatisations which will see provision of services handed over to the highest bidder. As well as a colossal transfer of wealth from the public to the private sector, privatisation has time and time again been shown to negatively impact on employees and service users. Our Vice Chancellor, Michael Farthing himself dabbled in a similar escapade to privatise services at St. George’s medical college, it failed miserably and had to brought back in house. In the past, all surplus generated from the provision of these services has been reinvested in the University’s facilities – Sussex stands to see that surplus extracted by private companies and financiers if these plans go ahead. For the 235 workers affected (see list here) this will mean reduced job security, the handing of control over pensions to private companies and the deterioration of pay terms and working hours and conditions. A recent review in the guardian of how outsourcing fails to deliver and betrays the public sector vindicates our concerns.

Perhaps most importantly the decision to bring private providers into the education sector reflects a larger ideological push by this and previous governments to marketise education as a consumer good. For management at Sussex this is certainly a continuation of departmental teaching and university-wide job cuts over the past 5 years under the guise of “deficit-cutting”. We stand firmly against the segregation of our campuses along producer/consumer lines and reject this false dichotomy. Moreover, we reject the way in which outsourcing further segregates different members of the campus community, whose job statuses, though necessarily complementary in practice, become suddenly dissociated financially and institutionally, leading to a complete breakdown of the social cohesion intrinsic to any healthy and normally functioning organisation. We wholly reject the undemocratic and unaccountable structures and procedures which this management has procured in order to force its agenda on members of the Sussex campus community. We reassert that Education is a public good that is and should remain free of perverse market incentives in every aspect of its provision.

We Demand:
1. A complete halting of the ongoing bidding process and end to the entire privatization program, effective immediately.
2. A commission of students, staff and lecturers to be formed. With full remit to re-evaluate procedures and channels for holding management accountable as well as reviewing and extending student and workers’ say in these decisions.
3. An end to the intimidation that senior and middle management have used to deter students and workers for airing and acting on their concerns.

Taken from Sussex Against Privatisation.

Posted By

Feb 8 2013 08:41


Attached files


Feb 8 2013 10:37

Joseph Kay
Feb 8 2013 11:59

For any staff/students/locals reading this, there's a demo today at 1pm in library square.

Edit: I'd also reiterate this is about the outsourcing of 235 jobs, overwhelmingly grade 2-3 jobs like catering and porters. Students are acting in solidarity with staff.

Zanet Urth
Feb 9 2013 04:04


Joseph Kay
Feb 12 2013 18:24

There was a huge demo today (hard to say how many, certainly hundreds, probably 400+). This video gives some idea of size (and enthusiastic chanting, ha):

300 or so people stormed the building, security gave up trying to hold them back, and apparently now management have conceded control of the doors from 8am to 10pm, so there's now open access. There was a big occupation assembly apparently soon after:

(click for larger)

Obviously, there's a danger of substitutionism here, with students acting in place of workers. There's hints of that from either side (some students seeing themselves as more radical than the workers, some workers seeing student militancy as a substitute for industrial action), but I don't think it's the only way it could go. Obviously, it's a question of whether workers have sufficient inclination and capacity to self-organise a response (Unison have been effectively blocking any action - prompting a socialist union activist to speak out).
Management are trying to create a sense of inevitability and futility, and have been intimidating staff out of participation in the campaign. Conversely, worker-activists have been trying to build up solidarity and momentum, despite some Unison officials' best efforts. So it's a race between self-organisation and fatalism. The student militancy might feed back into that, but it's hard to say. There's a photo doing the rounds on facebook of an occupation of a McDonalds in Harlem where four union activists were sacked. Those kind of tactics would be pretty viable on a university campus with hundreds of occupation-prone students about. So hopefully the effect of the occupation will be to say to staff 'look how much support you've got if you take action' as opposed to being a substitute for action by the workers facing outsourcing (and those who're likely to be next - ITS, library etc).

Joseph Kay
Feb 12 2013 18:49

More pics:



mark steel

blurry march

occupation (pre-reinforcements)

Joseph Kay
Feb 12 2013 20:56

Mark Steel speech: