Students Storm Senate House!!!
Student protestors marched on The University of London centre today
Dramatic scenes unfolded today down at Senate House as student protestors overran the campus, something they had been warned was ‘forbidden’ by officials.
The students involved, numbering around fifty, were protesting against unfair pay for Senate House and University cleaners and maintenance workers.
With chants of “Sick pay, Holiday, Pensions, Now!” the gang tried twice unsuccesfully to enter the campus, being turned away by UL security, before setting up a noisy lunchtime encampment around the back of the iconic building.
The students hung various banners proclaiming their cause, dubbed ‘The 3 Cosas Campaign,” before being joined by a megaphone siren and several of the cleaners themselves.
Although starting as a fairly passive protest, the situation quickly changed as one student managed to breach the gates, while his fellow activists blocked building staff from entering their workplace. Several students holding banners refused to move as employees returning from their lunchbreak tried to access the building.
Security staff at the side gates chatted briefly with the student, before allowing him to stay behind the railing. When asked if they were going to take further measures, the guards simply replied ‘No.’
As the campaign moved back round to the front of the University hub as protesters chased people leaving Senate House down the street shouting their demands. As procession proceeded, cars were forced to a standstill, except for one determined motorcyclist who refused to let the protest stand in the way of his midday commute, bursting defiantly through the throng:
Nearing the front of the building, participants began shouting through the windows of the landmark:
Later on at the main gates, protestors pushed over a moveable security fence and stormed the central carpark en masse. Although in direct violation of a previous warning by the institution, security guards were powerless to stop them.
Michael Chessum, President of ULU, clarified the University’s position on the matter from behind the gates:
“It’s good that we’re defying the ‘non-ban.’ There should be legal restriction on it in that we’re allowed to portest on our campus, or indeed anywhere. They sent a letter to me saying that essentially it would not tolerate protests outside Senate House, which is just stupid, and totally illiberal. They could try to call the cops, that would be monumentally stupid of them.”
“I think this process is important,” he continued. “We live in a higher education sector in which the pay of senior managers is rocketing, and people who actually do the job of making universities functional are still without holiday pay, pensions and sick pay, so that’s obviously very important. We’re looking at quite a heightened level of militancy among the workers themselves, this campaign has always been led by the workers. It looks like there’s going to be some pretty big action this Autumn. The only unstoppable force on any campus are the students and staff working collectively and in this instance that’s actually happening. I hope what we’re doing will be a case-study for what will happen if you actually do stuff.”
While some workers were able to attend, they were limited in how much action they were able to take. Andreas, a former cleaner for Senate House, said he was glad of the student involvement:
“The terms and conditions aren’t built for the cleaners and the porters and the people who have to work here. Of course I’m in favour of it. Things have to be this way, they won’t listen to workers. I was in the complain in 2009 protesting for the London living wage and they achieved that. Of course this is going to change something. They are going to listen to them as they know they have the students against them.”
It was a sentiment echoed by Mr. Chessum:
“Managements all over the world will take any opportunity they can to pick off and sack anyone who is organised in a workplace, and if workers feel they can’t come out on demonstrations like this that’s fine, and that’s where students come in.”