This blog has been set up by workers at Sussex University who are opposed to the plan to privatize 235 jobs announced in May 2012. This is a place to discuss how we can stop it.

Please also join the Facebook group, but here you can have discussions anonymously, or send us things to publish via the contact form.

First occupation assembly panorama

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.

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.

Sussex Against Privatisation.

Why? Top Six Problems With Outsourcing

1. Loss Of Managerial Control

Whether you sign a contract to have another company take over an entire department or single task, you are turning the management and control of that function over to that company. True, you will have a contract, but the managerial control will not be yours. Your outsourcing company will not be driven by the same standards and mission that drives your company. They will be driven to make a profit from the services that they are providing to you and other businesses like yours.

2. Hidden Costs

You will sign a contract with the outsourcing company that will cover the details of the service that they will be providing. Anything not covered in the contract will be the basis for you to pay additional charges. Additionally, you will experience legal fees to retain a lawyer to review the contacts you will sign. Remember, this is the outsourcing company’s business. They have done this before and they are the ones that write the contract. Therefore, you will be at a disadvantage when negotiations start.

3. Threat to Security and Confidentiality

The life-blood of any business is the information that keeps it running. If you have payroll, medical records or any other confidential information that will be transmitted to the outsourcing company, there is a risk that the confidentiality may be compromised. If the outsourced function involves sharing proprietary company data or knowledge (e.g. product drawings, formulas, etc.), this must be taken into account. Evaluate the outsourcing company carefully to make sure your data is protected and the contract has a penalty clause if an incident occurs.

Photo: Ole Johannes Kaland

Photo: Ole Johannes Kaland

4. Quality Problems

The outsourcing company will be motivated by profit. Since the contract will fix the price, the only way for them to increase profit will be to decrease expenses. As long as they meet the conditions of the contract, you will pay. In addition, you will lose the ability to rapidly respond to changes in the business environment. The contract will be very specific and you will pay extra for changes.

5. Tied to the Financial Well-Being of Another Company

Since you will be turning over part of the operations of your business to another company, you will now be tied to the financial well-being of that company. It wouldn’t be the first time that an outsourcing company could go bankrupt and leave you holding-the-bag.

6. Bad Publicity and III-Will

The word “outsourcing” brings to mind different things to different people. If your friends and neighbors lost their jobs because they were shipped across the state, across the country or across the world, outsourcing will bring bad publicity. If you outsource part of your operations, morale may suffer in the remaining work force.


17 Responses to About

  1. Auguste says:

    I’m glad this new round of rationalisation isn’t being swallowed without a fight; I’m only sorry that we didn’t manage to put a permanent dent in Farthing’s ‘strategy’ and his unbelievable, toweringly smug stupidity back when we had our shot back in 2010. But they really did wobble for a few days before Easter that year after Farthing and Duffy – the latter perjuring himself in the process – colluded with police to illegally break a student occupation at Sussex House. We almost nailed them in the weeks of occupation, strike and free association that followed – hopefully you can finish the job.

    By way of a gift from that period there’s this website – http://sussex2010.wordpress.com – which is a lightly editorialised, fragmentary, scanned archive of the whole year 2009-2010 in anticuts activity at Sussex. The March 3rd occupation is described at https://sussex2010.wordpress.com/2010/08/23/march-2010-occupation-police-intervention-mass-outrage/ and the good weeks during A2 are at https://sussex2010.wordpress.com/2010/08/23/a2-occupation/ .

    Good luck this time round. I’m sure all the ones who fought and lost and didn’t get the sack – or leave – have been preparing for something like this for the last two years, and getting ready to win. I hope you do.

  2. sussexstaff says:

    Its a real shame that the Childcare service has already been privatised on campus- please don’t forget this- the staff were treated terribly and made to feel lucky that they had any job at all.

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  4. sussexstaff says:

    I also want to support the comments about the nursery staff on campus- the privatization of the nursery has been a demoralizing experience for staff who have been working at the Sussex nursery for many many years. The nursery has been a shining light in childcare practice, has been consistently rated outstanding by Ofsted and outsourcing has not been a positive experience for staff or parents.

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  7. Ben Keen says:

    Can you undergraduates that have nothing better to do please stop making the university:
    a. a laughing stock to other research institutions
    b. an unbearable place just to have lunch

    These protests are as futile as the protests against the rise in tuition fees, and those really worked out great for you didn’t it? Besides, the food on campus isn’t even good- the only place where I can tolerate eating the food is Costa at the Innovation Centre (private, obviously), maybe some privatisation would do the university some good; no one at Birmingham is complaining about the Subway in their Students’ Union. Also, who’s going to pay to have all of your posters taken down?

    • Sussex staff says:

      Ben, this is more than about how you like your sandwich. A large part of what we, the soon to be outsourced staff, provide is welfare for students and monitor how people are settling into their residences. We have noticed a large increase in welfare issues due to financial strains mostly. It will be obvious that a private company will not have the same dedication to stay beyond working hours to provide the support a student needs at time.

      • Ben Keen says:

        We all know the students just want something to do. It may be sad to admit but, just like the rise in tuition fees, this is going to happen. The protests have achieved nothing, and they will continue to do so. You can be sure that as soon as this is over, the students will be nowhere to be seen when it comes to helping those that have lost their jobs. The reason, because it’s not easy; protesting because their friends are protesting is far more easy because they’re not actually doing anything.

        The university is primarily a research institute, secondarily a teaching institute and somewhere way down there is looking after the small minority of students who can’t get along okay. If the university needs to restructure in order to fund more research, then so be it and I support that.

        As I’ve said before on other forums on the matter, the problem we face is that the big researchers that bring in all the money, the people that the heads of schools will be trying to entice, and along with them up to seven figures in funding each, are going to be seeing these protests and thinking that they might be better off where there is less liberalist bother. If the university begins to lose research funding, its reputation will plummet, and there will be further losses across the board, and this time it’ll not just be in the non-essential staff posts, but it’ll start to encroach on the teaching and research staff at the core of the university.

        This is more than how I like my sandwich, but I’m not sure anyone here would’ve understood that.

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