The student-led occupation of Deptford Town Hall, in support of striking Goldsmiths lecturers, has continued into a third day.
The senior management team have been refused access to the building and a statement has been released saying that the occupation will continue throughout a second strike planned on Thursday.
Yesterday’s action by lecturers was part of a nationwide 24-hour walk out in protest against pension scheme changes being sought by the Government. The University and College Union (UCU) are campaigning to increase pension contributions and end the final salary pension scheme, along with opposing a planned rise in the retirement age for all lecturers and staff.
Des Freedman, lecturer at Goldsmiths and secretary of Goldsmiths branch of the UCU said: “This is an ongoing campaign and it will carry on until this government is defeated.” He went on to say: “It’s all about defending our pensions, it’s about defending our public services.”
In a show of support, student activists from Goldsmiths occupied the former Deptford town hall, which is used as an administrative building, on Monday night in an act of solidarity with their lecturers.
The group of protestors called Goldsmiths Fight Back are refusing to leave until further notice. They have barricaded the main entrance to the building and have stopped university staff from entering.
Sampson Oson, 20, a student in politics and economics, helping out with the blockade, said: “Hopefully this will get the attention of Goldsmiths’ senior management who have been really unsupportive of students and teachers who are fighting cuts to education. Hopefully they will start to listen.”
In November last year, the building was also occupied by students demonstrating against a rise in tuition fees, and cuts to funding for education. The protest was condemned by Goldsmiths who threatened to charge the Student’s Union for damages.
Lecturers thanked the students for their support saying that students at Goldsmiths played an important part in ‘changing the outlook’ and that they had ‘showed that something could be done.’
Ed Marsh, vice-president of the NUS spoke to students and lecturers gathered outside Goldsmiths library. He said: “If we don’t stand united, we will definitely divide and we will definitely fall.”
An e-mail sent out to students at Goldsmiths on behalf of the lecturers said: “We have no wish to interrupt your studies or to do anything that unnecessarily makes the lives of students more difficult. Indeed, many of us are taking action precisely because we want to maintain a well resourced, well funded, well motivated higher education system which is able to do justice to students who take our courses.”
Neither the union or Goldsmiths management were able to give details of how many of the 1,500 academic staff had joined the action, although the union said around 60 had signed up for picket line duty and that the education department had been forced to close. At Queen Mary, in Mile End, a spokesman said only a handful of the 3,000 staff members had gone on strike.
The strike is the start of four days of action building up to the ‘March for the Alternative” TUC organised demonstration in Central London on Saturday.
Additional reporting by Seb Wheeler