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Scores of MPs and Peers condemn brutal university staff pay deductions

3 May 2023

More than 50 MPs from five different political parties have written to the body representing university vice-chancellors to condemn threats to deduct up to 100% of staff wages for taking part in a marking and assessment boycott.

University staff began boycotting all marking and assessments in a long running dispute over pay and working conditions on Thursday 20 April.

However, in response employer body the Universities and Colleges Employers Association (UCEA) recommended that all 145 universities across the UK make punitive pay deductions of between 50-100%. Staff engaged in the boycott are still continuing to attend work and perform the majority of their other duties.

In the letter, MPs and Peers from the Labour Party, Liberal Democrats, the Green Party, Plaid Cymru and SNP say there is 'no ethical justification for making such punitive deductions, especially during a cost of living crisis'.

The letter warns UCEA and vice-chancellors that the threats to deduct wages do 'nothing for the reputation of UK higher education' and 'put a resolution to the dispute further away'. 

The letter was circulated by Beth Winter, Labour MP for Cynon Valley. It was signed by former Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn and former Green Party leader Caroline Lucas. It was also signed by prominent members of the House of Lords including former Trades Union Congress general secretary Frances O'Grady and renowned barrister John Hendy KC. 

UCU has urged vice-chancellors and UCEA to immediately withdraw the threats and return to the negotiating table. Otherwise, the boycott will continue. 

UCU general secretary Jo Grady said: 'Members of Parliament and the House of Lords can see what many university leaders cannot; namely that these deductions are immoral, counterproductive, and have no place in our universities. UCEA and vice-chancellors need to stop with the bully-boy tactics which are damaging to staff, students, and the international reputation of UK higher education.' 

Beth Winter MP said: 'University staff deserve fair pay and fair terms. That is all they're asking for. No one can disagree with that. But universities are now deepening a dispute when they should be working to resolve it. 

'Cutting 100% or even 50% of university staff pay for a marking boycott when continuing their other duties is unfair, confrontational, and will alienate staff. UCEA needs to show leadership, stop these deductions, and meet UCU at the negotiating table to reach an agreed resolution.' 

Full list of MPs and Peers:  

  1. Tahir Ali, MP, Labour 
  2. Mike Amesbury, MP, Labour 
  3. Apsana Begum, MP, Labour 
  4. Olivia Blake, MP, Labour 
  5. Christine Blower, Peer, Labour 
  6. Pauline Bryan, Peer, Labour 
  7. Richard Burgon, MP, Labour 
  8. Dawn Butler , MP, Labour 
  9. Ian Byrne, MP, Labour 
  10. Dan Carden, MP, Labour 
  11. Shami Chakrabarti, Peer, Labour 
  12. Jeremy Corbyn, MP, Independent 
  13. Bryn Davies, Peer, Labour 
  14. Geraint Davies, MP, Labour 
  15. Mary Foy, MP, Labour 
  16. Margaret Greenwood, MP, Labour 
  17. John Hendy, Peer, Labour 
  18. Wera Hobhouse, MP, Liberal Democrat 
  19. Kate Hollern, MP, Labour 
  20. Kim Johnson, MP, Labour 
  21. Ben Lake, MP, Plaid Cymru 
  22. Ian Lavery, MP, Labour 
  23. Clive Lewis, MP, Labour 
  24. David Linden, MP, SNP 
  25. Ruth Lister, Peer, Labour 
  26. Rebecca Long-Bailey, MP, Labour 
  27. Tony Lloyd, MP, Labour 
  28. Caroline Lucas, MP, Green 
  29. Andy McDonald, MP, Labour 
  30. John McDonnell, MP, Labour 
  31. Rachael Maskel, MP, Labour 
  32. Ian Mearns, MP , Labour 
  33. Grahame Morris, MP, Labour 
  34. Charlotte Nichols, MP, Labour 
  35. Frances O'Grady, Peer, Labour 
  36. Kate Osamor, MP, Labour 
  37. Kate Osborne, MP, Labour 
  38. Bell Ribeiro-Addy, MP, Labour 
  39. Lloyd Russell-Moyle, MP, Labour 
  40. Liz Saville-Roberts, MP, Plaid Cymru 
  41. Tommy Sheppard, MP, SNP 
  42. Prem Sikka, Peer, Labour 
  43. Cat Smith, MP, Labour 
  44. Zarah Sultana, MP, Labour 
  45. Sam Tarry, MP, Labour 
  46. Claudia Webbe, MP, Independent 
  47. Mick Whitley, MP, Labour 
  48. Nadia Whittome, MP, Labour 
  49. Hywel Williams, MP, Plaid Cymru 
  50. Beth Winter, MP, Labour 
  51. Tony Woodley, Peer, Labour 
Last updated: 5 May 2023