Stunning victory against outsourcing at the University of Surrey

Facilities staff at the university are celebrating after winning their campaign against privatisation by the backdoor and cuts to terms and conditions.

Following a campaign by UNISON, the University of Surrey has agreed to cancel its plan to transfer 220 facilities staff to called a wholly owned subsidiary (a private company).

In 2022 the University set up a new company called “Operate Surrey” with a view to transferring support staff to save money. In exchange for a small increase in pay, workers would see their sick pay, annual leave and pensions slashed. It was also proposed to introduce new performance-related pay, which could have quickly removed any short term pay increase for transferees.

In response, UNISON lodged a formal dispute on the issue, and asked members if they were willing to strike. Staff overwhelmingly voted yes to taking action.

The campaign grew and during subsequent negotiations with UNISON, the University of Surrey agreed to roll back their plans to move staff to the new private company. Staff will remain on the existing terms and conditions and stay employed by the university.

UNISON South East regional organiser Michael Etheridge said: “This was privatisation by the back door. Wholly owned subsidiaries should have no place in our public services.

“It was shameful that the University of Surrey was proposing to cut their staff’s sick pay and pensions during the worst cost of living crisis in a century. In some cases our members stood to lose tens of thousands of pounds in pension cuts.

“UNISON members mobilised quickly against these proposals, said a resounding ‘no’ and won a fantastic victory for the University of Surrey UNISON branch.”

This isn’t the first campaign UNISON South East has fought and won against wholly owned subsidiaries. In 2021, Frimley Health workers in UNISON won a two year campaign against being outsourced to an NHS wholly owned subsidiary.

Find out more about the Frimley Health campaign