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Students ‘locked inside’ university hall during ‘occupy’ protest

Senate House group are backing lecturers' strike against pensions cuts

23 March, 2018 — By Helen Chapman

A fair pay protest banner hanging in Senate House 

STUDENTS were locked inside a university hall during an “occupy” protest over changes to academics’ pensions.

The University of London Occupy group this week complained about an “aggressive response” by managers at Senate House, Bloomsbury, claiming the hall was bolted shut with them still inside.

The occupation was held in solidarity with ongoing action by academics against changes that will significantly reduce their pensions.

In a statement, the Occupy group said: “We currently have no access to food, water and toilet facilities, and in the event of an emergency we will not be able to leave the building safely.

“This is a disproportionately aggressive response on the part of UoL and is putting students who are peacefully protesting under unnecessary risks.”

University bosses say a door was locked “in order to prevent students accessing the tower which is strictly controlled for safety and security reasons”.

On Wednesday the group held a lecture on the legacies of the student movement in the hall and there was a piano recital.

The students are also urging senior managers to end outsourcing and zero-hours contracts and are calling for cleaners, receptionists, security officers and porters to be brought back in-house to improve pay and work conditions.

The protests are taking place alongside university lecturer strikes which began in February over changes to the lecturers’ pension scheme, which are said to make a typical lecturer £10,000 a year worse off in retirement.

A university spokesman said: “The university recognises the right for students to protest on behalf of these issues. In relation to the contracted- out services, the university announced a review of all facilities management in November 2017 and the final report and recommendation will be considered by the board of trustees at their meeting in May 2018. The vice-chancellor commented on the proposed pension reforms in early March and hopes that a mutually agreeable settlement can be achieved in the ongoing discussions.”

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