Call for Crisis Justice at University of Sussex: Protecting Students & Precarious Workers

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Our Campaign at a Glance

We ask you to support Crisis Justice at Sussex, a grassroots campaign formed by our campus unions (local branches of UCU, Unite, and Unison). We are petitioning to oppose sweeping cuts at our University, to protect precarious workers and students, and for practical, humane and just leadership during the Covid-19 pandemic. The principle of crisis justice proposes that any financial sacrifices to be made in this time of crisis must come from the top downwards.


A Programme of Cuts at Sussex

The University Executive Group (UEG)* at the University of Sussex, led by Vice Chancellor Adam Tickell, is proposing sweeping financial cuts in response to Covid-19, which will target the University’s least secure workers and students. All three campus trade unions at Sussex (local branches of UCU, Unite, Unison) have united locally to form Crisis Justice at Sussex, a grassroots campaign that opposes these cuts and offers in their place a plan to protect the entire University community. 

We are now asking all students and workers, inside and outside our University, to join us in our campaign calling for crisis justice at Sussex. 


Targeting the Most Precarious

The proposed programme of cuts includes, but is not limited to:

  • the de facto termination, without proper equalities testing, of casual and temporary contracts deemed ‘non-essential’;
  • the expectation that remaining staff carry the resulting burden of work, on top of their already escalating workloads and intensified caring responsibilities;
  • cuts to provisions supporting maternity and sick leave, without due concern for how this will deepen existing gender and disabilities inequalities; 
  • slashing funds for Postgraduate Research Students, closing off opportunities for students who are unable to self-finance their education.

These cuts will exacerbate existing forms of precarity; for example some migrant workers, whose employment is tied to visa status, could be subject to deportation during the pandemic.

Crisis Justice: Make Cuts from the Top Downwards

As campus unions, we reject the argument that these cuts are necessary.

The University of Sussex is in the top 20% of British Higher Education institutions based on its net cash inflow and holds over £300 million in unrestricted reserves. Our VC Adam Tickell’s basic salary is over £300,000 per annum, which is seventeen times that of the lowest-paid full-time worker at Sussex, who earns £17,361. In 2019, 63 other University employees also each earned over £100,000. Yet the UEG is proposing cuts that target the most precarious, low-paid members of our University community.

We acknowledge that Covid-19 brings multiple challenges to the sector. We are committed to working with our University leaders to lobby the government for a funding settlement. However, the current crisis should not be used as cover for implementing a drastic programme of job reductions, which will ruin the lives of precarious workers and the quality of education for students.

In this spirit, we call on the UEG to live up to the University’s leading institutional value of ‘Kindness’ and to follow the examples set by a number of our peer institutions in protecting the entire University community from financial hardship.


Our Campaign Demands

The Crisis Justice at Sussex Campaign makes the following four demands as the basis for practical, humane and just leadership at the University of Sussex:

1. that the University Executive Group (UEG) immediately and fully withdraw the Financial Review Guidelines issued on 25th March and revised on 7th April 2020. 

2. that the UEG ensure no detriment to the pay and conditions of the University’s most precarious workers and its students during the Covid-19 crisis, no matter their contract or visa status.

Specific commitments to ensure no detriment:

a) extend contracts for all casualised employees until the Covid-19 crisis is over and, where necessary, apply the UK government’s job retention scheme to all eligible precarious staff, topped up by the University to cover 100% of wages.

b) protect Postgraduate Research Students (who comprise the future of the academic workforce) by: ensuring PGRs have the same access as in previous years to paid teaching work; protecting existing PGR funding; extending enrolment status as needed and extending scholarships accordingly; suspending fees for self-funded students; extending deadlines where needed; and ensuring that annual reviews have a purely supportive (rather than disciplinary) purpose. 

3. that the UEG commit to implementing a 6:1 maximum pay ratio (meaning that no one in the University earns more than six times the salary of its of its lowest-paid full-time employee, currently £17,361) as part of ensuring that any burden of post-crisis adjustment falls on those most able to afford it.

And, regarding a just process:

4. that the UEG commit to taking all major decisions in response to the present crisis - including on furlough, voluntary severance schemes and protocols for remote working - transparently and in full and open consultation with Council, Senate, the campus Trade Unions and the Students' Union, and that all such decisions stand up to robust scrutiny from an equalities perspective.

Please Support this Call for Crisis Justice at the University of Sussex by:

1. signing our petition;

2. sharing this petition and information about our campaign widely with your contacts and on social media;

3. following and sharing our Twitter account (@CrisisJusticeSx); 

4. if you are Sussex student or worker, consider contributing a testimonial to help us with our campaign. 

 

* For clarity, and in the interests of transparency and accountability, the University Executive Group currently consists of the following individuals:


Prof Adam Tickell (Chair); Prof Saul Becker (Provost); Dr Tim Westlake (Chief Operating Officer); Prof Kelly Coate (Pro-VC, Education and Students); Prof Stephen Shute (Pro-VC, Planning and Resources); Mr Allan Spencer (Director of Finance); and Mr Peter Brook (Interim Director of HR).