Childcare motions ignored by academics at University of Sussex meeting

The academic staff of the University of Sussex were reported to be stunned during a meeting held by the senate of the institution, after the management body chose to ignore the discussion of motions that had been introduced by union members within 17 departments pertaining to the closure of a childcare programme.

The motions encouraged some to express objection to the termination of Sussex’s flexible childcare programme; a programme which enabled staff to save money through making childcare payments from their salary packages prior to tax deductions.

One academic present at the meeting (held at the end of November, claimed that when a senate member enquired as to why discussion of the crèche was being dismissed, the response provided by Sussex’s registrar / secretary, John Duffy was that there was “no formal status” attached to the motions.

The Sussex branch of the UCU has asked Mr. Duffy for clarification of his statements. While he still has yet to reply, a university spokesman said that the changes made with the programme were implemented pending consultation with the applicable unions and the affected staff, together with the claim that the senate was not in the position to deal with an issue which was “already being looked at through those appropriate channels”.

The childcare programme was stopped when the crèche administration was outsourced to an external company (Co-operative Childcare on November 1st). While current staff will be compensated for the programme being ended, and will find an alternative childcare vouchers programme, the union has said that its concern about increased costs for future staff remains – it claimed that it totals thousands of pounds every year – and there is the possibility that female academics will be disproportionately affected.

The motions instructed those in senior management to investigate whether or not the service would remain being considered valid in the workplace, thus allowing the programme to continue.

The Sussex spokesman said that the decision to outsource had been greatly approved by the university staff – otherwise, it would be necessary to close the crèche as a result of recorded losses in excess of £350,000 per year.