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Occupation of Wills Memorial Building continues after U-turn from University management

The student occupation of Wills Memorial Building continues, as Bristol University management rescinds concessions.

By Holly Beaumont, Co-Editor-in-Chief

Today marks one week since a group of 12 students barricaded themselves in the Great Hall in Wills Memorial Building, in support of the UCU strikes. The occupation was set to end today, after management agreed to concede to their demands, however the university then reneged on this decision, accusing the occupants of displaying "arguably violent acts".

A statement released by the student occupiers said: 'On Saturday 5 March, the occupiers accepted University of Bristol managements counter proposal for the conditions for ending the occupation; concessions were made on our demands and an agreement was reached'.

However, 'admin issues' were cited as the reason that management could not 'formalise' the agreement until Monday 7 March and the occupiers chose to remain in Wills until the concessions were formalised.

The occupiers state that this however did not happen, as 'this morning Occupy Wills received an email from university management, accusing occupiers of "arguably violent acts" towards staff, during the initial entrance to the building', the statement continued.

The statement concludes that at this stage, 'management have abandoned all negotiations'.

In their statement, the occupiers describe the 'mutliple meetings' between them and university management, as 'conducted in a cooperative and amicable manner, with UCU and SU representatives present'. The agreements that were reached on 5 March, stated:

  • 'There would be no repurcussions for occiupiers of the building - specifically, "No disciplinary action for unauthorised occupation of the university premises, as long as it is peaceful".
  • Management would clarify the terms under which ASOS (Action Short of a Strike) pay cuts would be triggered. This did not meet our initial demand, but occupiers were happy to concede this point.
  • Management would spread 'strike day' pay losses over a maximum of five days per month for present and future UCU industrial action for the current academic year.'

With regards to pensions, the statement said that they 'struggled to reach an agreement, but were happy to facilitate the continuation of dialogue between University Management and the UCU'.

In response to the allegations made by the university that the occupants were 'violent', they said that they 'took care to be conscientious and nonviolent, talking to the estates team upon entry and informing them calmly and peacefully of our exact actions'.

The students also said that none of the occupiers 'have any recollection of any violent acts nor any threats of such behaviour'.

According to the statement, only one 'issue of distress' was raised by one staff member during meetings, in which, 'all occupiers apologised unreservedly for any unintentional upset'. This apology was then said to have been 'accepted by management who said they would relay the apology to the staff concerned'.

While stating that they think 'the occupiers took care to be as calm and peaceful as possible', the statement  argues that 'some members of the security team' did not display the same care, suggesting that they 'used tactics which may be construed as intimidatory and outright aggressive'.

Such 'tactics', include: 'Not allowing food into the occupation on one occasion, not allowing hygeine products, including menstrual hygeine products into the occupation, deliberately slowing down the delivery of food into the buildings, using aggressive language towards those outside of the hall supporting occupiers, threatening both those inside and outside with police involvement and filming and photographing occupiers without consent, including one incident in which a female occupier was filmed while partially undressed'.

The statement concludes by expressing the occupiers 'dissapointment' at the development of events: 'We are saddened and shocked that University management has resorted to veiled threats'.

They refer to management's 'U-turn' as 'shocking' and re-afrirm that they will not be departing until their concessions are met: 'The situation can be promptly and easily resolved if University Management maintain the concessions already agreed upon, at which point the building will be vacated'.

Featured Image: Epigram

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