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UCU comment on Tristram Hunt MP crossing university picket line

11 February 2014

A union has written to shadow Education Secretary, Tristram Hunt MP, calling on him to engage with the plight of striking university staff after he crossed an official picket line at a London university.

Members of UCU have taken industrial action six times this academic year after receiving a pay offer of just 1% which would leave them with a real-terms pay cut of 13% since 2009.
UCU members are taking action along with their colleagues in Unison, Unite and the EIS in the increasingly bitter row over pay.
While staff pay in universities has been kept down, vice-chancellors enjoyed an average pay rise of 5.1% last year, and an average salary of £235,000.

UCU general secretary, Sally Hunt, said: 'Tristram Hunt should know better than most MPs the extent to which staff pay has been kept down in recent years, despite healthy pay rises for vice-chancellors and bills going up. It is a real cost of living crisis and why university staff are fighting the pay dispute.
'It is disappointing that Tristram appears to be using his students as an excuse to cross the picket line, particularly since the National Union of Students supports the trade union case for a decent pay rise.

'We have written to Mr Hunt asking for the opportunity to explain the issues behind our dispute and also why thousands of university staff and trade unionists will be so disappointed that he crossed an official picket line.'

Letter from UCU to Tristram Hunt
Dear Tristram
I am writing to you following reports from the UCU branch officers present that you crossed an official picket line at Queen Mary University London yesterday.
You will know better than many therefore that pay in universities has been held down in recent years, with staff seeing a 13% cut in the real terms value of their pay when measured against inflation.  That is why UCU and our colleagues in Unison, Unite and GMB are fighting this dispute - it is a real world example  of the cost of living crisis that your leader Ed Miliband has highlighted so well in recent months.
It is a fundamental principle, not only of my union but the movement in general, that you do not cross a picket line.  I am therefore assuming that you have simply made an error or that you have no prior knowledge of how picket lines work.  I would therefore like to invite you to meet so we can explain on behalf of our members the issues in the dispute and also how a picket line works and the importance of honouring it even if it is personally inconvenient. Be assured that this has caused offence amongst our members and will with others when I report to our executive.
I look forward to hearing from you.
Sally Hunt

Last updated: 10 December 2015