University of Sussex threatens legal action after reoccupation

Students have reoccupied a conference centre at the University of Sussex that was at the centre of previous protests over the outsourcing of services.

November 28, 2013

The Occupy Sussex movement is objecting to what they claims is the “privatisation” of campus catering services and plans to outsource estates and facilities services.

The movement has been fighting against outsourcing on the campus for more than a year. The last occupation of the Bramber House Conference Centre lasted for three months before protesters were evicted in April this year.

In a statement, Occupy Sussex said: “We have chosen to occupy this space, as it is both the site of [the catering company’s] offices and a significant income stream for management.”

It added that all attempts to engage in meaningful dialogue on the issue have been “rejected or pacified” and “reducing the income for these entities is a last resort to make them listen”.

Occupy Sussex added that the fresh wave of activity was also in solidarity with the one-day strike action over pay due to take place across the higher and further education sectors on 3 December.

However, a Sussex spokeswoman said the occupation was unlawful and it was taking “legal steps” to end the action.

“Around 30 to 40 students used the cover of an event for postgraduate students to unlawfully gain access to the conference centre. Despite being instructed to leave…the trespassers remain in occupation without the consent of the university.”

Activities on the third floor of the building were being disrupted but facilities in the rest of the building were running as normal, the statement added.

The university’s registrar, John Duffy, denied that any services at Sussex had been privatised. “We have agreed a new partnership to manage our on-campus catering,” he said.

The action at Sussex comes as students at the University of Birmingham occupying the institution’s senate chamber were evicted by police and bailiffs this morning after defying a court order to leave.

In a statement online from the Defend Education group, which organised the occupation. Hattie Craig, who is also a Birmingham Guild of Students vice-president, said: “This is not the end of the campaign. University management have refused to negotiate, and actions are planned over coming weeks.”

A Birmingham spokeswoman said: “This occupation was not organised by the Guild of Students and it is regrettable that the action of this tiny, unrepresentative minority, has diverted resources, potentially diminishing both the safety and learning experience of our 28,000 other students, and harassed and intimidated staff trying to carry out their normal duties.”

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