Read an update on this story here.
University of Bristol students are occupying the main hall of the Wills Memorial building in solidarity with striking staff.
At 8am this morning (Monday, February 28) 12 students entered the great hall of the University’s main ceremonial building on Park Street and swiftly barricaded themselves inside using tables and chairs.
University security called police who arrived but left shortly afterwards without taking action. Security remain on site and are reportedly in communication with occupiers to organise toilet and water access although interaction between security and supporters outside the building has been at times hostile.
In a statement, the occupiers, who are largely autonomous although they are acting under the Bristol Rent Strike banner, say they are taking action in support of staff striking over pension cuts and in protest against the University’s treatment of staff taking action short of a strike, who have been threatened with withheld pay.
University teaching and research staff with the University and College Union (UCU) have been on strike since February 14 over a proposed 35% cut to their pensions, as well as ongoing issues with casualisation at the University.
Speaking to The Bristol Activist via phone, one of the occupiers said that morale in the main hall was high but the occupiers remain “on high alert” against further security or police action.
They said they took action due to frustration at feeling that the University management don’t care about staff and students and instead only care about money.
They said the occupation was well planned and the students arrived with sleeping bags and food to last for several days.
‘We’re prepared to stay as long as possible,’ they said, with the intention of getting the University management to hear their demands.
The occupiers have four demands to the University. In full they are
- No repercussions for the occupiers
- Reverse the decision to withhold pay from staff taking action short of a strike
- Back the UCU pension plan proposals (which would protect pensions in return for an increased contribution by staff and employers and call for a new valuation of the entire pension fund)
- Spread strike days across multiple monthly pay slips.
A small support team were present outside the Wills Memorial building throughout the morning and were joined by striking staff after a rally outside the Victoria Rooms.
The occupation continues.