UNISON members consult on industrial action

Tim Lezard

SussexUNISON has warned bosses at the University of Sussex they are running the risk of industrial action after failing to consult on plans to privatise the university’s facilities and catering services.

The news is another blow to the university which was the venue for a two-month sit-in by student protestors angry at the privatisation plans.

The controversial proposals will affect 235 staff – more than 10% of the university’s workforce –and are deeply unpopular with both university workers and students. As well as threatening services, the plans could involve the loss of staff pension rights, as well as lead to changes to their working conditions, pay and job security in the future.

Staff were not given any prior warning of the plans, and were only informed when the OJEU Notice was published in May 2012.

In the 10 months since the university management announced the proposals they have withheld vital information from staff and unions, despite giving much of the same information to bidders. The plans also lead to an occupation by students supporting the workers.

A recent report by the Association of Public Service Excellence, which the university has ignored, calls for a proper review of the current set up, including a pause to properly test the plans against changed market conditions.

Jon Richards, UNISON head of education, said: “The attempts to privatise these services has been a damaging episode for the university. The ongoing lack of transparency over the plans is deeply worrying – what are university bosses trying to hide?

“The lack of consultation by a stubborn and uncaring employer gives us no choice but to consult our members on taking industrial action. The university could avoid this disruption by talking to staff and unions openly. We are calling on them to start doing so, sooner rather than later.”

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Tim Lezard

Campaigning journalist, editor of @Union_NewsUK, NUJ exec member; lover of cricket, football, cycling, theatre and dodgy punk bands

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