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UCU industrial action update - Friday 9 March

Some progress has been reported following the latest round of talks aimed at ending the industrial action currently impacting 64 UK universities, including Sussex.

Both Universities UK (UUK), representing employers, and the University and College Union (UCU), representing employees, described the discussions yesterday (8 March) as “constructive”.

UCU members are taking part in national industrial action over proposed changes to the Universities Superannuation Scheme (USS), one of the pension schemes for university staff.

In order to move towards a resolution to the dispute, both sides agreed to conciliation talks with the Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service (Acas). Those talks have been taking place every day since Monday (5 March).

Sussex’s Vice-Chancellor, Adam Tickell, joined the UUK negotiating team on Monday at Acas and has played an active role in the progress made, according to UCU. The Vice-Chancellor is just one of a selection of senior representatives from across the university sector who are involved in the talks.

In addition, the University yesterday wrote to all staff on grades 7-10 and Associated Tutors to provide an update on action short of a strike (ASOS) in relation to the current industrial action.

While the talks continue, the University has called on a small group of students who have been blocking entrances to an administrative building on campus to consider the impact they are having on other students and all staff.

Student protestors prevented staff who work in Sussex House from entering the building for four days this week. Teams of workers have had to make alternative working arrangements on and off campus.

The Deputy Vice-Chancellor, Saul Becker, and other senior staff have spoken with and listened to the group of students on five separate occasions, each time for at least an hour. They have explained how Sussex House is a working building for more than 300 administrative staff, most of whom are not managers, but people who are keeping the institution running for the good of students and other members of staff.

Among the staff who work in the building are those responsible for processing student scholarships, as well as payroll staff who administer salary payments to all 2,600 University staff, HR recruitment personnel who are responsible for filling new jobs at Sussex, and staff who help to facilitate funds that provide financial aid to students who need extra support.

The University has stated very clearly that it respects the right of staff to strike. It will also do its upmost to protect students’ education and the rights of staff who are not on strike. By continually attempting to block or occupy Sussex House, a small group of students are attempting to hinder this.

During previous occupation attempts by this same group of students, the receptionist in Sussex House and a member of staff were physically intimidated, which caused distress. Other staff and students have also reported being intimated by protesting students.

With talks ongoing at Acas, the University has told these students that their actions are not positively contributing to finding a resolution and are out of step with the respectful approach taken by the vast majority of our campus community.

Deputy Vice-Chancellor Saul Becker said: “On behalf of myself and the VC, I would like to extend my personal thanks to all staff, whether or not you are striking, for the respectful approach you have been taking to this situation. I very much hope for a resolution to this as soon as possible.”

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Posted on behalf of: University of Sussex
Last updated: Monday, 12 March 2018