There will be a Public Debate entitled
"Union Commercial Services: Save them or Scrap them?"
on Tuesday 14th June at 4pm in H0.58.
The future of the Union's Commercial Services is a hot topic at the moment, as the Union is currently taking part in the so-called "Leadership Foundation Project" with the University. (This was formerly known as "Devolved Department Negotiations".
The Union's Commercial Services have a turnover of about £5 million and contribute about £300,000 towards the non-commercial services which the Union provides.
Here are two sample arguments to give you a taste of the sorts of things that will be discussed:
Argument for saving the Union's Commercial Services
Historically, the Students' Union fought hard for its independence from the University, and won the right to the Use of Union South in 1974. The £300,000 earned from the Union's Commercial Operations go straight back into services for students. The fact that the Union has this revenue stream means that it is not wholly reliant on the University, and makes the Union less vulnerable to threats to withdraw the block grant. The Union forces the University to keep its prices down by competing in the food and drink market. Because Union South is run by students, for students, the facilities can be used for what students' want. Students can have a real say on how the Union's Commercial Services are run through the democratic processes, as was demonstrated by the decisions taken about fair trade hot drinks. Therefore we should save the Union's Commercial Services.
Argument for scrapping the Union's Commercial Services
Running commercial services is by definition a risky undertaking, and as the Union's surplus tends to only be around £20,000 even a small deterioration of profits from the commercial side could leave the Union in financial ruin. The University would probably be happy to compensate the Union for the £300,000 lost if the Union let it take over the Commercial Services. The Union currently has a large incentive to tacitly collude with the University in the food and drink markets, which prevents the Union campaigning against the University's high prices. There is no reason why the Union's Commercial services could not be run by the University or the private sector, and they may thrive from being freed from democratic pressures. Students can make little difference about how commercial services are run as they are forever being warned that proposed policy is financially unviable. The staff-student protocol prevents discussion in Union meetings about how the Commercial Services are being run, and this is an unacceptable infringement on freedom of speech. Therefore, we should scrap the Union's Commercial Services.
As the Union is so fond of saying, come and have your say!
4pm, Tuesday, H0.58.