Tuesday 26 March 2013

Massive anti privatisation protest at Sussex University

2000 students and trade unionists demonstrated in support of the occupation on the campus yesterday. The occupation has now been extended beyond the area originally occupied.

Their statement is printed below.    Video http://youtu.be/O5kVlK2zoFA

Today marks an important and momentous day in the history of resistance at Sussex University and in the United Kingdom. At 1pm today, students from across the country stood alongside academics, university staff and others in a mass display of solidarity, to express their anger at the Management of Sussex University. At present, a National General Meeting is taking place to discuss and plan the future of the national campaign.

We have been joined by over 2000 people, including coachloads of students and faculty from Universities such as UCL, Exeter, Manchester, Warwick, Bristol etc. This is on top of countless supporters from the University and local community. In the general meeting following the demonstration, over 20 universities were represented.

Today saw the launch of the ‘Pop Up Union’, an innovative, horizontally organised trade union, run by staff on campus. Workers at the University of Sussex have formed the new union in a bid to halt the outsourcing of 235 campus jobs. The initiative comes from rank-and-file members of the three recognised campus trade unions, with the support of students from the now six-week old occupation of the University’s Conference Centre.

During the announcement of its formation today, a member stated “The Pop-Up Union is a result of management’s refusal to engage meaningfully with staff, students, and the recognised trade unions for over 10 months. We are now taking things into our own hands. We are urging all Sussex staff to join the Pop-Up Union so that we can stand together against the attack on workers terms and conditions that outsourcing represents.”

The demonstration began with inspirational speeches and rallying calls from Alfie Meadows, Katy Clark, Michael Chessum, Dr Maia Pal, Greg Paterson and others. This support from across the United Kingdom is indicative of the significance of the campaign that is taking place at Sussex. An EDM has been tabled in parliament, senior politicians are writing to the Vice Chancellor, and the campaign is the focus of a growing movement. Today also saw the delivery of a petition signed by 5000 people demanding a halt to the privatization plans, and the discussions of industrial action being mounted.

Today saw the emergence of a reinvigorated community, both at Sussex, across other universities, and throughout public sector institutions bearing the brunt of… Students and faculty met during the demonstration to plan and discuss how we grow and support each other in this united struggle.

In occupying all cafes on campus, we have provided staff the opportunity to join our demonstration at 1pm. Moreover a clear message is sent to Sodexo that they are not welcomed to our campus, and action will continually be taken to stop this. In taking over and occupying Sussex House, the University’s management building, the campus community have reclaimed the space from which these unilateral, detrimental and indefensible decisions have been made.

Today has seen action taken by the police force that has once again demonstrated restrictions on the right to protest. The decision to call scores of riot police onto campus to inhibit the action by staff, students, faculty and guests is further evidence that management are on the back foot, and that the community is set to win. Police lines were attacking students prior to the occupation of Sussex House. In the past, management have tried to divert successful campaigns focus away from its aims into protecting the rightful actions of victimised staff and students. We will adamantly defend all who joined us today, but we pledge not to be distracted from what we are fighting for. We will not let management rip apart our community, our education, and the future of universities.

All plans for today’s demonstration were peaceful. Once again, repeated excessive brutality of the police force has led to clashes. Hearing Alfie Meadows speak at the rally encapsulated this. The police force made no arrests today, a telling sign.

We once again reiterate the demands of this campaign and the current occupation:

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.
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