Savoury connections

According to the minutes of a closed meeting of the University of Sussex Senate (essentially its Executive Committee), the vexed question of outsourcing services was put into layman’s terms by Registrar & Secretary John Duffy:

I recognise that a group of staff and students are opposed to the [outsourcing] project, but a second and predominant group want to see good services provided on campus.

Little bit of a false dichotomy perhaps, but anyway, it’s hard to see how either of those groups will be satisfied by the new provider of the University’s catering services.

imageCompass Group Plc. are advertising for a ‘University of Sussex Catering Manager’ even before their contract has been announced by Sussex House, so they’re clearly very keen as a company.

Previously, this company’s keen-ness has led to them committing a number of alleged financial crimes, which came to light after a 2005/06 investigation by the UK Serious Fraud Office regarding “irregularities” (Compass Group’s word) with a catering contract for United Nations peacekeeping units in Africa and Cyprus.

Compass was also subject to scrutiny from the American federal government and the UN’s own financial oversight office. The auspicious episode in Compass company history ended with the catering giant paying out $40 million in damages and being blacklisted from carrying out contracts for the UN. Not many companies can make such a boast! Fortunately, it doesn’t seem to have been much of an impediment in Sussex though.

The “irregularities” (what a nice, soft word that is) are said to have involved Compass Group staff bribing a UN official for the contract. There were also allegations that officials gave Compass inappropriate access to confidential information to help their bid.

So it sounds like they’ll fit in perfectly at Sussex then!


  1. Just a few points of information

    The University of Sussex Senate is the main academic body of the University, as is described here

    You will see that It is *not* the main Executive Committee of the University and was never intended to be that.

    The meeting of Senate to which you refer (and which I attended) was, as usual, open to all Members of Senate.

    The University today announced that Chartwells would be providing catering services on campus from 1st September

    I don’t know anything about this company other than what I’ve found on the web, and haven’t been involved with the outsourcing at all, but I’m personally delighted that an arrangement has been reached that secures the jobs of catering staff on campus, along with terms and conditions (including pensions) as agreed with the trades unions, as well as creating new job opportunities and better catering provision for staff and students.

    1. I realise that all members of Senate were allowed into the meeting of Senate (!) and used the phrase ‘closed meeting’ in the usual sense of ‘not open to stakeholders’, ie. students, in the way that eg. local authority meetings are open to residents.

      The uni finally announced today, just a few hours after my blog post was published (…) that Chartwells, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Compass, have the contract. As I said, it seems curious for the uni to use one of the very few companies to have been blacklisted by the UN to provide these services, but I’ve long given up on expecting responsible decision-making from management. #thursdayisthenewmonday

      1. I was just pointing out that this was a regular meeting of Senate; your phrasing implies that there was something different about this meeting. Anyway, there are student representatives on Senate, as well as representatives of the staff and trades unions. Students aren’t the only stakeholders in a University.

        I’m not aware that Chartwells have been blacklisted by the UN. They are the UK’s largest supplier of catering services to Schools and Colleges, and already providing catering services to 30 UK universities. I don’t see anything curious about them having been chosen to supply Sussex in a similar way. I am indeed delighted that they’ve been persuaded to step in an attempt to rescue a failing business and secure the jobs of the workers currently employed in it.

        1. Read further above; Chartwell is a wholly-owned subsiduary of the Compass Group, which (according to ‘The Guardian’) was suspended as a contractor by the UN after the scandal covered by this blog post.

          I’m also not convinced that the deal will ‘secure the jobs’ of any workers. The TUPE regulations are extremely weak and unless the University has imposed extra conditions – which I concede is possible, though they’ve not announced this – the workers’ positions are not particularly safe.

        2. Again, just for information, I quote from the University’s statement at:

          “The University has already reached an agreement with local trades unions on pensions provision and provided assurances to staff in relation to core terms and conditions and access to campus services, such as sport, car parking and library. There are no redundancies involved in the transfer.”

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