Cleaners hired by contractor ISS became violent with students holding a sleepover at the School of Oriental and African Studies
Students supporting cleaners on strike at a London university have been attacked by scab workers brought in to break the action.
Cleaners hired by contractor ISS became violent with students holding a sleepover at the School of Oriental and African Studies (Soas) on Monday.
A dozen students voted to extend a solidarity meeting into an overnight occupation in order to stop scab labour coming onto the premises before workers began their picket at 4am.
But they found ISS has been sneaking strike-breakers into the building throughout the night.
When they asked the scab cleaners to leave they were subjected to aggressively shouting, homophobic and racist slurs and offensive gestures.
The scabs even tried to snatch phones from students who filmed the abuse, which has been seen by the Morning Star.
"The situation was completely unexpected and horrible to experience," said Chinese student Adam Barr.
"I was subjected to verbal and physical abuse by an external ISS cleaner who was there to undermine the strike. The use of homophobic language was particularly distressing."
Students then effectively blocked entry to the building until the early hours of the morning, when the Unison picket line formed.
University of London Union black students officer Maham Hashmi-Khan said the occupation was inevitable at that point.
"It's despicable that the university thinks it's OK to bring in staff that threaten students," she added.
Strong support was seen on the picket line from the early hours, with students, academics and fellow Unison members delivering food and hot drinks to the striking cleaners.
Unison regional organiser Ruth Levin joined the first of two days' action by more than 50 cleaners, who unanimously backed the strike.
She said: "Soas as an institution claims to deal with pressing issues such as democracy, human rights and poverty.
"Yet here we have a situation where it is failing to deal with a pressing issue that is sitting on its doorstep."
ISS did not respond to requests for comment.