EXCLUSIVE: Sussex Food staff say they won’t be able to afford rent with redundancies

The latest cuts mean they’re unable to buy their families Christmas presents

Three weeks ago it was announced that 70 per cent of Sussex Food catering staff were ‘at risk’ of being made redundant.

Currently, despite the furlough scheme being extended until march, these plans are still intending to go ahead.

The risk of 70 per cent of Sussex Food staff being made redundant was proposed by Chartwells Higher Education, the company that manages Sussex Food, despite Sussex Food catering for the self-isolating students on campus.

Staff working for Sussex Food have written an open letter to Vice-Chancellor, Adam Tickell, requesting that the University steps in and helps them save their jobs. In the open letter, they stated: “Our employer Chartwells has told us that 39 out of 55 of us will be selected for redundancy on November 17th. We are at a loss as to how we and our families will manage with losing our income during a national lockdown.

“We are already on low wages. Many of us are on minimum wage so there is not much opportunity to save up. Hospitality, the sector we work in, is in crisis so if we lose these jobs we will struggle to find another.”

Given that many of them are currently on low wages, being made redundant would result in becoming homeless just weeks before Christmas. They continued: “Some of us are not going to be able to pay our rent. Some of us are only going to be able to feed our families by using foodbanks. Some of us are going to have to tell our children that the fact they are getting no presents for Christmas doesn’t mean that we don’t love them, it is that we simply don’t have the money to. We’re not sure a child will understand this but we have to hope they will.

We know that everyone is facing a tough time, but it seems wrong that we should lose our jobs when we provide an essential service that will be needed again when the campus re-opens fully. It is especially wrong as furlough has been extended till March. If the redundancies go ahead it will give support to many staff and student concerns that the plan is to replace permanent members of staff who have a connection and care for the University with agency workers who have no such pride in the University. We could be kept on at very little cost and still be able to look after our families. We have recently been taking a lot of risks to help get food to the students and look after them, working our hardest with no sick pay.”

Many of the Sussex Food staff members employed at the University have worked there for many years, before the University became a client to Chartwells. In the open letter they stated: “Lots of us have worked here for many years and we feel part of the place, we care for the students and our colleagues in the University. We feel we should not be treated as disposable and worthless. We know that Chartwells have already decided who is staying and who is going, and it is even more heartbreaking to be told this by a manager and know there is nothing you can do to get them to change their minds.

“We have had to send this anonymously because everyone is terrified about going public for fear of losing what little chance we have left of being kept on. As you can imagine working in such a state of fear is also really stressful and demotivating.  We know that Chartwells will listen to its client, the University, and we know the University has the resources to save our jobs. So for the sake of our families please don’t stand by while we get thrown away – tell them to stop this process and let’s find another way.”

Tomorrow at 12pm there is a virtual rally to help save Sussex Food staff. The event is being hosted by the Students’ Union and Brighton and Kemptown MP Lloyd Russell-Moyle will also be attending. More information surrounding the event can be found here.

A petition to help stop the mass catering cuts happening at our University can be found here.

When approached for comment, Chartwells exclusively told The Sussex Tab: “We appreciate this is a difficult and uncertain time for employees. We are urgently reviewing the guidance for the furlough extension until March, announced on Thursday, to establish if this impacts upon our restructuring plans. We are doing all we can to provide support to those employees potentially impacted, and will update those colleagues in consultation as to next steps as soon as a decision has been reached.”

The University of Sussex has been approached for comment.

Feature image courtesy of Sussex Supports the Strike