University of London students clashed with police this Thursday in the latest step of a long fought battle to improve working conditions for the lowliest university employees.
Students have been campaigning alongside overseas workers as part of the "3 Cosas Campaign" meaning "3 Things" in Spanish, the language spoken by the majority of overseas workers. The aim is to gain sick days, holiday and pensions for outsourced workers.
After a year of trying to negotiate with the university, students took to the streets yesterday in more demonstrative action to propel their campaign.
London student Tom was at the protest with the University of London Union, and said direct action was the “next necessary step” in the campaign.
“If you try and go through the ‘legitimate’ channels then you only get a certain amount of the way. It isn’t going to work really to ask for humanity so this sort of stuff is going to get their attention.”
Hundreds of students and university workers stormed the Senate House building in Russell Square. Armed with banners and picket signs, protestors climbed gates and blocked roads only to be met by a wall of police armed with tasers.
The protestors were not fazed by what they saw as a method of “intimidation” as they charged through police officers and wheeled bins at them.
A spokesman for the Independent Workers of Great Britain said: “the university is trying to intimidate the campaign because they don’t have the moral argument.
“They’re trying to discredit us by making seem violent.”
Workers are forced to work long hours for which they receive very little pay after tax. Most of these workers are looking for a better life in the UK, but do not seem to be getting it.
Marta is an outsourced cleaner at the University. In London, she leaves home for work at 4am and doesn’t return until past midnight, having been forced to find work in the UK after the economic downfall in Spain.
“We don’t have holidays or sick pay like our employers do,” she said.
“I thought it would be good in Britain, but I find myself in a very uncertain situation working early in the morning, late at night without much pay.
“If things were better in Spain I would love to go back, there is more consideration in the job.
“They treat us as if we are not worth anything.”
Vice President of ULU Daniel Cooper said that the demonstration had been “magnificent”, for the “massive outpouring of support for outsourced staff and what they do”.
“Its only because of them that the campaign has become what it has because it’s a campaign controlled by workers,” he said.
“We are not going to stop. We will continue to campaign, and we will continue to fight."
In a statement made in July, the university said that it had discussed the issues with ULU officers, but that 3 Cosas was not a "recognised trade union".
"The recognised trade unions are UCU and UNISON, and these are the only unions with whom the university will discuss employment matters."
ULU has planned for further demonstrations throughout November alongside a strike, which threatens to leave the University halls unattended for three days.