‘Unidentified’ security men ‘violently’ evict University of London Justice for Workers Senate House occupation after 24 hours

After just over twenty-four hours of occupying the Chancellor’s Hall at Senate House, University of London Justice for Workers (UoL J4W) activists were “violently” evicted last night around 9pm by ‘unidentified security’.

The group have said on Twitter that the University of London (UoL) sent a “large group of private security guards to remove us from the occupation by force. They brought riot shields. Their company badges were hidden behind gaffa tape.”

Pictures appear to show activist being carried by black-clad men with tape covering their company insignia.

They said they will release more information after “reviewing all our footage” of the removal of the roughly one dozen of their members who had barricaded themselves in the building.

UoL J4W, which consists of students from various UoL colleges, barricaded itself behind locked doors at Senate House on Thursday evening to pressure management to make all its outsourced workers direct employees on equal terms and conditions as in-house services.

They also demanded that UoL recognise the Independent Workers’ Union of Great Britain (IWGB), which unites the majority of cleaners, receptionists and security guards campaigning to end outsourcing at the university.

This afternoon, the group tweeted:

“Protest and student-worker solidarity is harder than ever under these authoritarian conditions, but we will NOT give up until all outsourced workers are brought in-house and our demands are met.”

The west gate of Senate House locked shut on Friday evening.

The group chose to occupy the Chancellor’s Hall for its prominent location and for its use as an exclusive events venue.

On its website, Senate House advertises the hall for events including award ceremonies, banqueting, dinner dances and film shoots, costing £2,205 to hire for four hours – its second most expensive venue.

A spokesperson for UoL told London Student: “it is very regrettable that UoL had to take this action.”

They said, “a small group of student protestors … were endangering themselves by sitting on exterior balconies, blocking fire exits and smoking on University premises, the group were escorted from the building by trained security officers.”

“The students were in regular dialogue with the University’s Health and Safety Officer and other senior staff and they were briefed on the danger in which they were placing themselves by their actions and that they were in breach of the University’s visitor regulations.”

The statement added that UoL “brought staff guest services and portering services in-house in May this year” and would “continue to make progress with the recognised unions on the other currently externally provided services according to our published timetable.”

UoL recognises the Senate House Unison branch in industrial relations, despite IWGB’s higher membership density among outsourced workers.

London Student was also told that a fire alarm sounded during Friday afternoon at Senate House, summoning both the fire brigade and police, was unrelated to the occupation.

UoL J4W earlier told London Student that the university have “only brought around 10%” and that the remaining workers’ contracts would be put up for general tender with no guarantee of becoming direct employees.

This spring, UoL management avoided giving definitive statements on whether its “review process” on outsourcing will result in the all workers being brought in-house, while saying the review “should be completed by 2020 at the latest.”

They said, “this staged approach is to avoid substantial financial penalties from breaking contract”.

Writing to London Student, the branch secretary of the IWGB at UoL, Danny Millum said he welcomed the support from UoL J4W in their actions and that “we never cease to be awed by the solidarity shown by our student comrades.”

He said, “IWGB outsourced workers have been fighting for almost two years for equal treatment with in-house staff and yet in all this time the UoL have refused to meet with workers and their representatives and continue to discriminate against this predominantly BAME workforce.”

“The IWGB reiterates its demands: that UoL bring all workers in-house and immediately enter into direct negotiations with those workers and their chosen union. Hasta la victoria siempre!”

According to UoL no events or film shoots were rescheduled due to the occupation, however, on Friday afternoon the Senate House Library and the Institute of Historical Research, both nonadjacent to the occupied hall, announced unexplained that they would be closed all Saturday.

The UCL Senate House hub on the third floor of the building no similar statement.

UoL J4W were approached for a comment and said they would release a full statement, which is available here and summarises their previous announcements.

Photo credit: Uol J4W (cover) and David Dahlborn

Opinion Editor. Cambridge History PhD student.

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