VIDEO: Sheffield universities’ day of dissent

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Masked students occupied a Sheffield University building in a protest to coincide with a one-day strike by lecturers.

The group, calling themselves Sheffield Strikes Back, took over one of the main lecture theatres in the Arts Tower, forcing the university to close the building for the day.

Masked protesters occupy the Arts Tower.

Masked protesters occupy the Arts Tower.

They said they represented a number of left-wing student groups – but added the protest was not part of the national industrial action organised by UCU, Unison and Unite.

A similar sit-in was organised in another university building to tie in with the last lecturers’ strike at the end of October.

The group said: “Once again, as students of Sheffield University, we have gone into occupation in solidarity with those on strike. We are unified in our opposition to the mistreatment of university staff by management, both locally and nationally.

“Our occupation will further disrupt the running of the university on a day when we believe no staff and no students should be crossing a picket line.”

A university spokesman said: “The university is dismayed the Arts Tower was occupied by protesters and as a result has been closed.

“We support freedom of speech and the right of students to express their views peacefully and within the law. However, the university does not condone occupation of a building which has caused disruption for other students.

“The health and safety of our staff and students is our main priority and the decision to close the Arts Tower was made after careful consideration and in consultation with university security staff and South Yorkshire Police.”

Staff moved lectures and seminars to other locations where possible.

Lecturers and support staff such as librarians set up picket lines across the city as their national strike went ahead as planned.

The action was part of a campaign protesting against a 1 per cent pay offer, which staff argue means an effective cut in their living standards for the fifth year in a row.

Staff from the city’s two universities and Sheffield College gathered for a rally in Barker’s Pool.

College staff also picketed outside Norton College.

Mike Henderson, Hallam UCU branch secretary, said: “Staff do not want to go on strike and lose more money, but the failure of employers to respond to our negotiators is forcing us to take action.”