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BREAKING: Sheffield students occupy the Arts Tower in support of the strikes

Students occupied the building this morning to support the lecturers’ strike

At 6:30am this morning, a group of approximately 18 students known as Sheffield Student-Worker Solidarity occupied the Arts Tower in support of the ongoing UCU strikes.

The group plan on staying in the building until Saturday evening if the University does not meet their demands.

The students appear to have barricaded the entry to the tower and have posted a list of demands to their Facebook page, which include:

1. Vice-Chancellor Sir Keith Burnett to lobby against the proposed pension changes.

2. Money made from the strikes be ringfenced and students given democratic control over its allocation.

3. No penalties for hourly-paid workers due to the strikes.

4. A meeting in the Students' Union with the Vice-Chancellor.

5. A 5:1 pay ratio between the highest-paid and lowest paid university workers.

6. A freeze on university accommodation fees.

7. Increased funding for specially-trained staff for mental health issues.

8. Protect international students by freezing their fees and a campaign to extend the freedom of movement for migrants.

The group appears to have barricaded the entrance to the tower

The group have also said they will continue to occupy the building until management make "considerable concessions to these demands".

In a post on their Facebook page, the group added: "We will remain in occupation until management make considerable concessions to these demands.

"We intend to keep the Arts Tower open to all students and workers who are supportive of the strike action, but will enforce the picket line by preventing everyday work from taking place."

The Tab spoke with members of the group occupying the building who said they have no desire to disrupt students, only the university, and that students are welcome to enter the building despite the barricade.

Members of the University's Security Services however, are preventing more people entering the building. They told The Tab the building is unsafe due to the inability of staff to enter.

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Security Services in front of the barricade

The connecting bridge between the Western Bank Library has also been barricaded and is adorned with banners which promote taxing the rich and making education free.

The skybridge this morning

The Tab understands the Arts Tower basement is currently storing supplies for Open Day which is scheduled for Saturday and members of the group of students occupying the building told me they hoped that this would give them extra leverage over the university in the hope that they would capitulate.

A UCU picket supervisor told me that he was unaware of the students' plan to occupy the tower and that the two protests just happened to be at the same place.

The reaction from students who were expecting to use the Arts Tower today was mixed, with some in support of the occupation and others arguing that it was disruptive. The occupiers have said that while they understand the frustration, they are adamant that if the university promises not to send in staff they will be happy to allow students in.

A rally occurred at 11am with UCU members and students gathering in front of the Arts Tower chanting for "fair pensions".

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The rally in progress