From Occupation to Trade Dispute: The latest from the Sussex Pop-Up Union.

Posted: May 25, 2013 in Students, Sussex, Trade Unions, UK

popDuring a national demonstration held on campus, on Monday 25th March workers at the University of Sussex announced the formation of a new union, set up with the purpose of directly opposing the outsourcing of 235 campus jobs. A spokesperson for the union, known as The Pop-Up Union, described it as “A result 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.” 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.” Union dues are set at just 50p per month, making the Pop-Up affordable to every staff member on campus.

In May 2012 University of Sussex management proposed to outsource 235 campus jobs, including porters, cleaners, security and catering. In response to this staff and students went into occupation of the Bramber House conference centre on February 8th 2013, during the 7 weeks they were in occupation they received support from well over 300 academics, trade unions and public figures including comedian Frankie Boyle, actor Peter Capaldi, and public intellectual Noam Chomsky. Local MP Caroline Lucas even tabled an Early Day Motion in the House of Commons opposing the plans.

Since the unveiling of the union this March discussions have been had with the Trade Union Certification Officer and  as of the 8th May The Pop-Up Union has been entered into the List of Trade Unions. This means that the Certification Officer, an appointed official with a legal background, is satisfied that the Pop-Up Union meets the legal definition of a trade union.

Last week, the Pop-Up Union submitted a detailed claim to the University of Sussex management regarding the proposal to outsource 235 jobs. They are seeking a complete halting of the ongoing bidding process and end to the entire outsourcing program, effective immediately, a commission of 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 workers’ say in these decisions and an end to the intimidation that senior and middle management have used to deter workers from airing and acting on their concerns. Unfortunately, University of Sussex management have chosen not to meet these requests and so The Pop-Up Union has now entered into a formal trade dispute with the University of Sussex.

The campaign has also launched a hardship fund for staff affected by outsourcing or possible industrial action, you can donate here.

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