London’s Senate House occupied by students

Students have occupied the University of London’s Senate House in a protest over pay, pensions and financial accountability.

December 4, 2013

In the latest in a wave of campus sit-ins across the UK, about 100 students entered the university’s Bloomsbury headquarters this afternoon.

The protesters say they have take over a “main management corridor and the vice-chancellor’s office” to call attention to the “disgraceful and unaccountable manner” in which the university is run.

“This action is restorative; displacing the undemocratic and unaccountable management with a democratic space for the free pursuit of knowledge, critical enquiry and dissent,” the protesters claimed in a statement.

The sit-in follows similar protests over the last fortnight at the universities of Birmingham, Edinburgh, Exeter, Sheffield, Sussex, the University of Ulster’s Coleraine campus and Goldsmiths, University of London.

Students occupying Senate House say they will not leave until a series of 10 demands are met.

These include a call for all outsourced staff to receive the same sick pay, holiday and pension entitlements as in-house staff and for the return of the University of London Union’s block grant, enabling it to avoid closure.

It also wants a pledge to ensure student accommodation is not outsourced and rents are in line with the money student’s receive from maintenance loans.

The demonstrators also want the pay ratio between the lowest paid and the highest paid staff in the university to be reduced to a maximum of 10:1, while calling for the financial statements of the university’s academic departments and non-academic services to be published.

The Senate House action follow a two-day picket by outsourced cleaners last week, who called for equal pay and conditions to in-house staff.

Members of four higher education unions – the University and College Union, Unite, Unison and EIS, in Scotland – also held a second one-day strike on 3 December against a “miserly” 1 per cent pay offer.

The University of London confirmed that parts of Senate House are being occupied by “a group or groups of as yet unidentified people”.

Chris Cobb, chief operating officer and university secretary, said he was concerned for the welfare of staff and students following the sit-in.

“We have witnessed some extremely dangerous behaviour on the part of the occupiers, including climbing onto the external balconies,” he said.

“We will do everything to ensure that no one is at risk, including the protesters,” he added.

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