The ongoing University & College Union (UCU) strike hit new heights yesterday at the University of Liverpool, where a group of students occupied the ‘private suite’ of the University of Liverpool’s vice-chancellor, in an apparent show of support for their lecturers. The students unfurled banners, and acted in a manner they stated was a ‘last resort’. University staff at the institution – along with 63 others in the United Kingdom – are taking part in fourteen days of strike action in a row regarding pensions. Read on for more.
The group – who called themselves ‘Liverpool Students for Pensions’ – started the day in the manner of a peaceful protest at 7:30am. As mentioned, they were throwing their weight behind the ongoing UCU strike. Yet a few hours into the protest, the group had managed to occupy the fifth floor of the University’s Foundation Building. This escalation had been planned. An additional area on the fifth floor is an area commonly used by the vice-chancellor of the University – Janet Beer – leading to the claim of a private suite being taken over.
Beer is an obvious target for protest – given that she is the President of Universities UK. Universities UK are the organisations behind the proposed changes. The group of students maintained that the occupation of the area was a measure of ‘last resort’. They also confirmed they were acting ‘independently’. The University appeared to remain calm, stating that the building was open as usual, despite the protest. Many staff members attended picket lines – opting to partake in a more conventional form of protest.
This occupation was praised by many. The students were clearly throwing their weight behind their lecturers – who are battling against planned pension changes. Universities UK are planning on changing the pension scheme, with a switch to a model that would see pension income linked to changes in the stock market. This would replace the current model, which provides a guaranteed retirement income – and is universally more popular. Most see the planned change as a negative step, causing concern for staff.
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The aim of the occupation was to make senior figures in the pension furore aware of the level of discomfort many felt – and it seemed to work. The group successfully showed their support for lecturers – though some would argue they went too far. The strike action is set to continue in the next few weeks.