Students of the University of Liverpool have occupied a building on campus to show support to their striking lecturers, and to protest against university fees and what they call “the privatisation of higher education”.
Liverpool’s Irish Studies department was occupied by a small number of students yesterday afternoon, during the national strike held by academics and university support staff.
In a statement, the occupiers declared they have “peacefully occupied this building in order to show solidarity with workers striking against unfair pay and forced changes to contracts. We see this as part of a wider attack on the provision of free education which has included the introduction of tuition fees, outsourcing of university staff, and the ongoing reduction of staff pay and working conditions.”
The group has issued a set of official demands on its blog. They attack the university’s management, whom they accuse of sending out an email which demonised the workers for striking. They have demanded a new email be sent “clarifying the situation rather than providing incorrect and deliberately inflammatory information to students”.
There has been a sudden rash of occupations at universities across the UK this week, as part of a coordinated campaign in support of pay increases for university staff, who UCU claims have seen their pay fall by 13 per cent in real terms in the last four years. The three main university unions, UCU, Unite and Unison, called a strike for yesterday, with Unite and Unison extending their strike by an extra day.
Other demands from the occupiers include wanting a guarantee that UCU staff and students will not be punished for showing solidarity to their Unison and Unite colleagues on the second day of strikes, and that those participating in the occupation and other peaceful activism may not be reprimanded for their actions.
In a statement, a spokesperson for the university said: “We can confirm a small number of students have occupied a building on campus. We respect the students’ right to protest and are doing all we can to minimise any inconvenience to students and staff who are working."
The occupiers have insisted that the occupation will continue until the demands are met, and are updating their blog at www.liverpooluniversityoccupy.wordpress.com