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Sussex UCU to strike on March 18th, calls for suspension of ‘Sussex 6’ to be lifted

March 9, 2010

At a well attended EGM, Sussex UCU determined to take strike action in response to the refusals by university management to remove the threat of compulsory redundancies. An initial one day strike was unanimously approved for March 18th by around 100 members present.

UCU negotiators talked about the intransigence of Sussex university management, who still appear to want to push through plans for 115 redundancies against opposition from staff and students. Management claim to have ‘listened’ to UCU and reject negotiations at ACAS, a second demand of UCU.

It is clear that members are determined to escalate industrial action if management continue their stubborn stance, with the possibility of all-out strike and as well as an assessment boycott during the summer term being discussed. The first strike day will take place one day after a Senate meeting, a representative body, and a week before Council meeting on March 26th.

Tom Wills, president of the student union, expressed full support for industrial action, putting the responsibility for disruption which a strike would cause on Sussex Uni management. He assured those present that the student union would explain industrial action to students, pointing out that unfortunately a strike will be effective to the extent that it is disruptive.

A second motion on the recent student occupation of Sussex House urges the VC to lift suspensions with immediate effect. The motion, which was approved unanimously, criticises the decision to suspend the “Sussex 6” citing the harm caused to the students’ education and the restriction of their civil rights.

In a heavy-handed crackdown of students opposing management plans, the VC Michael Farthing had suspended 6 students who had allegedly taken part in the occupation of Sussex House. This was in addition to calling in a large police presence, and taking out a High Court injunction against “protest action (without the consent of the University of Sussex)”.

On the same day as the  occupation of Sussex House, the results of a ballot for industrial action had been announced, with 76.4%  (340 out of 449) UCU members  had voted in favour of taking strike action, with  82.4% of members (366) in favour of action short of a strike. The turnout represented 81%, the highest recorded in a UCU ballot.

MOTION ON INDUSTRIAL ACTION

“This branch resolves to take industrial action in the form of a one-day strike on Thursday 18th March in response to the refusal by Management to (i) accept mediation by ACAS and (ii) to remove the threat of compulsory redundancies.

This Branch also resolves to take further industrial action if the negotiation landscape has not significantly changed by an acceptance of ACAS mediation and the removal of the threat of compulsory redundancies”

MOTION ON THE STUDENT OCCUPATION

“Sussex UCU wishes to express its deep concern at the disproportionate response of management to the occupation of Sussex House last week. The union understands that occupations are a form of protest, with a long tradition, undertaken by students in many institutions both in this country and internationally. We believe that dialogue and patience should always be the initial response of the institution, reflecting the values of constructive discourse and informed political debate unless there is an immediate and realistic threat of physical harm. The union fully supports and defends the right of lawful protest.

“We further believe that the summary suspension of students is a disproportionate response, serving to inflict significant harm to the education of the students concerned and restricting their civil liberties.

We urge the Vice Chancellor to lift the suspensions with immediate effect so as to enable the students to continue their studies and to exercise their human rights; and to expedite any disciplinary procedures that may be pending.”

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