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Joint Unions victory: Two of our demands have been met!

Published on 29th September 2020 at 17:13.

Two big wins for campus unions!

The following is an update from a University Health & Safety Committee meeting, which Officers sit on to represent the University of Sussex Students' Union (USSU), on behalf of students.

On 10 September, USSU, UCU, Unite and Unison published a joint statement on the teaching arrangements for the new term, with a specific set of demands. We heard today at the committee meeting that two of these have been (partially) met! 

On-campus testing

From next week, there will be a Mobile Testing Unit with a capacity for up to 400 walk-in tests a day. This will be part of the national testing system, not a separate Sussex initiative, and will be for symptomatic tests only. The actual number of tests will be limited by lab testing capacity, and the University emphasises that you must only seek a test if you are actually showing symptoms due to restrictions on local and national capacity to process tests, and the availability of tests. We are grateful for this and all the hard work that has gone into securing this. This will have huge benefits for the whole University community.

Open communication of positive coronavirus case numbers

The University will launch a dashboard on Thursday giving numbers of positive tests, which will be updated at least weekly. We welcomed this, particularly in light of the confirmed positive case on campus, and we urge the university to provide clarity on the changing situation and to update the dashboard more regularly - ideally daily - in line with similar reporting tools at a national level.

However, now it is time to meet our other demands:

  1. Give students the right to return home at any point with accommodation fees refunded (also set out in i-SAGE this morning)
  2. Give students who are asked to self-isolate full support (i-SAGE) (e.g. free food and laundry)
  3. Withdraw the threat to issue on-the-spot fines.

These further demands, particularly the issue of housing contract release, have been making waves nationally. It is clear we need to stand together to challenge the prioritising of financial interests over the welfare and safety of students stuck in university owned accommodation. Join your SU officer team at this national Rent Strike training on Thursday at 5.30pm, to learn about your rights as student tenants and how to organise a rent strike (and win!).