University of Sussex staff set to strike next Thursday

Staff at the University of Sussex are set to walk out next Thursday after a massive vote in favour of striking over proposed job cuts.

The University and College Union (UCU) says the action was decided at a packed meeting, and was prompted by a refusal by the university to agree to talks or lift the threat of compulsory redundancies. Its representatives will also lobby of a university senate meeting on Wednesday 17 March.

However, the university has hit back, saying it is holding a meeting with the three unions representing staff tomorrow – and the UCU is still due to attend.

UCU Sussex representative, Paul Cecil said: “Industrial action is an absolute last resort, but the university’s unwillingness to enter into meaningful negotiations, even through the conciliatory service ACAS, has forced our hand. The bottom line is that serious job losses will impact massively on the quality of education and services we can offer here at Sussex, which will result in a far worse experience for students.”

Tom Wills, University of Sussex Students’ Union (USSU) president, said: “We are right behind Sussex staff and the principled stand they are taking in defence of their jobs and our education. We understand that strike action by staff may be the key to winning this battle and we will do everything we can to support it.

“We will hold university management responsible for disruption to our education resulting from the strike – but moreover we will hold management responsible for the devastation that will be wrought on our education if they succeed in pushing through their cuts proposals.”

In a statement, the university said: “Our consultation with all three unions has been focussed on ways in which the proposed redundancies could be avoided, reduced or mitigated.  That includes active consideration of the ideas put forward by the UCU and the adoption of some of their suggestions.

“Together with all the unions we have developed a range of schemes for staff affected by the proposals – the Early Retirement/Voluntary Severance Scheme; the Managed Redeployment Scheme; the Reduced Hours/Jobshare Scheme; and the Discretionary Transfer Scheme.  All of these measures directly support staff and reduce the impact of redundancy proposals.

“From the very beginning of the consultation process, we have made clear that while we do all we can to achieve change by voluntary means, we cannot rule out compulsory redundancies.  Even the UCU’s own suggested approach does not avoid all of the redundancies proposed.”

The university is deleting 115 positions, and creating 20, leaving a net loss of 95 jobs from “unpopular” degree courses including environmental sciences, English and history, and support employees including security and creche staff, to save £5m.

The university employs 2,500 staff and has a turnover of £160m.

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