OCCUPIED! – UCL student action in support of UCU lecturers strike

‘Liberate the University’ occupied the Cloister Building, UCL, at 7.00am yesterday – they vow to remain until the end of the UCU strike

AT UNIVERSITY College London (UCL) over fifty students occupied the Cloister Building at 7am yesterday morning in front of the Provost’s office, and plan to block it for at least the duration of the lecturers’ strike. They have tents, and it will be a 24-hour occupation.

News Line spoke to student Eliott De Smedt Day who said: ‘We are hoping to achieve at least five days of occupation, and will organise teach-in sessions, film shows and workshops. On Wednesday, Wet’wet’en are currently protesting in Canada for indigenous rights. On Thursday, we are dealing with international solidarity. We, as students, have six demands: to end casualisation of labour, for a maximum 35-hours working week, for work-life balance, a staff pay rise of three per cent to meet London costs, full transparency on funding, a total end to outsourcing, pay cap on senior administrative staff, and agreement by UCL to meet UCU (University and College Union) demands on the pension fund.

‘We also want a new university council appointed by university staff and students. Our primary focus is solidarity between staff and students.’

Another occupier, first year student Walter Schut, told News Line: ‘The main reason for the occupation is to support the UCU strike and to galvanise support among the student body.’

In a statement, the occupiers said: ‘We are “Liberate the University”, a group of University of London students taking direct action to support our striking lecturers as part of a national move by students to escalate the ongoing strike action. We occupied the UCL’s main building this morning at 7am, and have blocked the entrance to the Provost’s office.’

On the UCL picket line yesterday branch secretary Tony Brown told News Line: ‘The strike is solid. We know there are shut departments in the university and staff are supporting us by staying at home.

‘The students are occupying today and the Students Union has been supportive.’

Imperial College in South Kensington saw pickets out with their slogans chalked on pavements around the campus.

UCU rep Roddy Slorach told News Line: ‘A number of staff joined the UCU last week and the Teach-Out lectures with students have been really successful.’

At the picket line at Goldsmiths College students also joined lecturers in their struggle.

Tom Henri, UCU branch treasurer said: ‘Goldsmiths is now involved in three separate disputes, the pensions scheme, a dispute over pay, equality workload and casualisation. We have also voted to ballot for a formal dispute over plans to cut frontline staff by 15%.

‘This is a plan called “evolving Goldsmiths” but we call it “Dissolving Goldsmiths” it involves getting rid of departmental details built over decades it means that all management is centralised therefore all departments are being treated the same. This will not save money although the management claim it will.’

Pickets were out at the London College of Communication at Elephant and Castle for the start of the full week of strike action. They were getting good support from passing motorists at the busy road junction.

Roddy Gibson, UCU branch chair, told News Line: ‘Things are going pretty well.

‘There’s been some communication that we’ve been offered 3%. Some people call it a total sell-out. It’s difficult to tell until we get more details. 3% is a shift but we want 3% plus RPI which would be 5.2%.

‘Then there’s the other issues like casualised working and equality of pay. There’s constant debate here on the picket line as to what the solution might look like. But on the strike, this is our big week. We have new banners, new umbrellas, and the feeling here on the picket is really strong.’

The strike will continue all week with a solidarity rally at the main gate on Friday at 10.30am and an all-London ‘March for Education and the Earth’ assembling at Malet Street at 12 noon.