By our education correspondent
Students at Sussex University have been occupying a conference suite protesting at the Senior Management’s plans to outsource the Estates and Catering departments. Some 235 staff face seeing their jobs outsourced to private firms.
A week after the occupation began not only had it grown in numbers but the action had gained support from among others broadcaster Mark Steel, local Green MP Caroline Lucas and writer Noam Chomsky.
Senior Management appear to have circled the wagons. Rumours of headless chicken mode abound as various threats are made to staff who wear badges in support of the 235. Despite management’s claim that the outsourcing is not motivated by money it is estimated that the contract could be worth £20m over 10 years.
The main figures behind the outsourcing scheme are vicechancellor Michael Farthing and registrar John Duffy. It is no coincidence that these two were behind the outsourcing of cleaning services at St George’s medical college in 2006. The company which won that contract paid the cleaners less than the London Living Wage, leading to the issue being raised in Parliament.
As soon as the model of funding for Higher Education changed from government grant to student fees then universities began to feel the pressure of market forces. There are many asset stripping companies waiting in the wings to make money from the HE sector. This ideological policy driven by the ConDem government can only lead to a “race to the bottom” as HE institutions are forced to make budget cuts.
Publicity is everything in this campaign. Management may ignore the fact that there is no visible support for their plans on campus but they take very seriously adverse publicity in social media. Support for the campaign continues to flood in and pressure is being put on local Tory MPs who must now be starting to worry about their majorities crumbling at the next General Election given the number of newly radicalised students living in the area. More info at: sussexagainstprivatization.wordpress.com
From @OCCUPY_SUSSEX National Demo –
#Mar25 – Time to KICK UP A FUSS! https://www.facebook.com/events/149067008592089/ … pic.twitter.com/CUKbND5w9T