Final statement from the Bramber House occupation

We, the occupiers of Bramber House, are leaving our occupation in order to join our staff at the picket lines in the fight for fair pay in higher education. These staff are fighting against a 13% pay cut since 2008, a gendered pay gap and for the living wage.

We occupied to raise awareness of the strike and also to reclaim this privatised space, which is now used by Chartwells, in an act of civil disobedience against the privatisation of Sussex services. We chose this location as it is symbolic of the marketisation of higher education – which is itself part of a wider austerity program under the current Coalition Government – and we wanted to make a clear stand against this ideology. For one week, we reclaimed this space and made it public again just as we aim to do in the broader context of higher education.

One of our main aims was to raise awareness of the strike, and we have done this. Through discussions with staff, they have supported the occupation but have also affirmed that they wished for us join their numbers at the strike. Now, we are leaving to stand with our staff in the way that they requested; we will be joining them at the picket lines and urging students and staff not to break the picket.

The hundreds of messages of support have been overwhelming, thank you. We extend our solidarity to Birmingham who, like us, have also been faced with intimidation tactics by university management who have shown time and time again that they would rather take legal action against occupiers and pay tens of thousands in legal fees than engage in dialogue with students to whom they are meant to be accountable. However, occupations by Sheffield, Edinburgh, Ulster, Exeter and other universities across the country show that student bodies will not tolerate fear tactics employed by unaccountable university managements. We have been proud to be part of this broader wave of student occupations fighting austerity in higher education. We urge the trade unions and students to continue taking collective action to secure a future where educational institutions are places of knowledge, not market run production lines.

To reiterate, we demand the following of Sussex University management:

1. To bring privatised Chartwells catering and conferencing services back in-house and to revoke the impending contract with Interserve which intends to privatise estates and facilities management in January 2014.

2. A restructuring of democratic procedures of the university, led by students, staff and lecturers with the purpose of re-evaluating channels for holding management accountable, as well as reviewing and extending student and workers’ say in decision making processes.

3. An end to the intimidation that senior and middle management have used to deter students and workers from airing and acting on their concerns.

4. To publicly address the issues of the strike on the 3rd of December, including a written statement calling on the Universities and Colleges Employers Association (UCEA) to meet the demands of the trade unions in question.

5. To issue a public statement demanding more funding for higher education institutions from the government in order to abolish tuition fees and ensure high quality education accessible to all.

These are steps that need to be taken in order to achieve a more equitable society in which education is a right and not a privilege. These are the things that we will continue to fight for.

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About sussex against privatization

Workers and students at the University of Sussex who are opposed to the plan to privatize 235 jobs.
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12 Responses to Final statement from the Bramber House occupation

  1. Dominic Guzman says:

    Unless you’re a union member you can’t join the picket. We don’t want our legitimate pay dispute hijacked by violent thugs. Keep your solidarity for other criminals.

  2. Nick Hughes says:

    what utter bollocks. any worker can join a picket and I imagine they are NUS. just try stopping them you prick 🙂

    • Dominic Guzman says:

      You can’t join the official picket unless you are a Union member. I see the louts were kept at a distance but still managed intimidation and other illegal behaviour, such as roadblocks. Still, there’s plenty of photographic evidence of these and other crimes, not to mention clear breaches of the student disciplinary regulations. Quite a few students will soon discover that they’re not students any longer…

  3. Herbert says:

    I can protest against the way MY MONEY is used within the university. When that consists of surplus millions and low paid staff, I would like my money better spent. Even when education is free and fully subsidised by the government, it is still MY (UK citizen’s) money funding the institution. That is why we can be there on the picket. That is why I will be there on the picket.

  4. Anon says:

    It isn’t your money. The money is the governments provided by the taxpayer and considering none of you have a job it isn’t your money because you haven’t paid a penny in income tax. You seriously think the government are going to listen to a very small minority of people who are insisting on using disruptive tactics? You’re all deluded, if you spent as much energy on yourselves getting your education and a job you would have created a career path already by now in time for when you leave. No one is going to give you one, not even your parents and certainly not the government.

    • Dan says:

      Small minority? Fairly sure it’s a national strike mate – means a majority vote took place across the country. The government is not who we are appealing to – it’s management and UCEA we’re putting pressure on. If you’re gonna troll, get your facts straight.

      • Dominic Guzman says:

        Only a small minority of University staff belong to unions; less than a third of academics at Sussex are in UCU. Many of those are not strking because they care too much about students’ education and realise that they have done very well over the last five years relative to the rest of the country, with annual increments not available in most other jobs.

  5. Anonymous says:

    Herbert: this is a very interesting point, but I feel it is false, both for the reason posted by anonymous above, but also in another way that is about transactions. Simply put, if you pay for any other product or service, you don’t have a say in how your money is spent by the recipients of your money, unless you are part of some kind of co-operative system, which many here falsely believe the university to be. You might “vote with your feet” and go somewhere to buy that product that you believe chimes with your values and does what you want with your money, but that is quite different, and in the current funding structure I believe higher education institutions are all pretty much in the same boat with regards to how they spend money and try to remain competitive. You don’t have a say in how your money is spent in the university, because that power is granted to the council, and through them, to the management. As far as I know, this is how universities have been run for a very long time. If you were interested in running any kind of business/institution, or donating money / investing in a company, for example, you may then be afforded a say in how wages are shared out, potentially as the member of a management or executive board. The student voice is heard loud and clear at this university, and there are many fora where this is welcome, and shapes the way forward for the institution, especially in the elements you are transactionally involved in (such as teaching and learning, systems, investing in equipment and so forth). In this, and many other ways you are afforded the right to directly influence how the management decides they run a business and the provision of cutting-edge equipment and services is one in which competitive institutions can scarcely afford to slip. No-one would pick sussex, after all. But in much the same way that you marching in to any shop/office/restaurant/ with a wad of cash offering to buy something wouldn’t afford you the right to decide how the staff are paid and on what system, I really think you should re-think this comment. This isn’t communism. There have to be jobs that are lesser paid. That’s a fact. This is compounded by the fact that, if you took out a loan for your fees, you will be paying back the loan through taxes, as many have done for years. So please, when you say that you are fighting for the staff, try to remember that you came to university, made the decision to pay your fees (with or without a loan, who knows) for your own reasons, not to fight on the frontline for university staff, and if you came here for that sole reason I think it was the wrong one. In the meantime, why not take this argument to Westminster.

  6. ray says:

    you guys rock my boat. Ive so much respect for the student response to this organised criminal gang that sits in parliament. As a 47 year old i went to parliament square on the day of the tuition fee vote and fought alongside students for some respect and dignity in the face of front line state oppression. I witnessed police viciously beating teenagers and was so enraged that day i have not rested since to try and halt this tide of hypocrisy and disregard for human rights and civil liberties.
    My upmost respect for your commitment and dedication to the cause.

  7. Dominic Guzman says:

    Oh, and blocking a public highway is also a criminal offence. Nice clear photographs to identify the culprits too…

  8. Pingback: Mid-week Sussex Human Rights Round-up | Gabrielquotes

  9. Pingback: Jak jsme okupovali univerzitu | Socialistická Solidarita

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