Pressure grows on University of Leeds as more MPs back striking staff

13 October 2017

Leeds North West MP Alex Sobel is the latest politician to come out in support of striking UCU members at the University of Leeds. He says the university should be working with unions to protect jobs, not wanting new ways to dismiss people

MP for Leeds North West, Alex Sobel, has joined fellow Leeds MP Hilary Benn (Leeds Central) and shadow chancellor John McDonnell in publicly backing members of UCU who walked out for a third consecutive day of strike action today.

The industrial action follows the university's efforts to introduce a new catch-all power which would allow staff to be dismissed for "Some Other Substantial Reason". The union has dubbed the new power a "sackers' charter" and said it could stop staff from pursuing controversial ideas or lead to them being pressured to withhold unfavourable research findings.

In a message* to UCU members at the university, Sobel said he knew people "don't take strike action lightly" and "it would be heartening to see the university and the union working together to improve job security rather than being in a dispute about academic freedom and the university wanting more flexibility to dismiss people."

Earlier this week Leeds Central MP Hilary Benn wrote a blog in which he said he had previously taken the matter up with the vice-chancellor Sir Alan Langlands and had hoped things could have been resolved without the need for any industrial action.

Benn said he had now written to three government ministers about the issue and signed the union's petition calling for the changes to be scrapped. Shadow chancellor John McDonnell sent a message of support to the striking staff yesterday.

UCU general secretary Sally Hunt said: 'It is really encouraging that local MPs and the shadow chancellor have publicly backed our campaign against dangerous changes the University of Leeds wants to bring in.

'As Alex Sobel says, no one takes strike action lightly and the university should be working with us to improve job security, not seeking new ways to sack people. Sadly the university has so far chosen to ignore its staff; we hope it will now listen to the politicians and work with us to avoid further disruption.' 


* Alex Sobel's message of support

Dear UCU members at the University of Leeds

I want to let those of you who live in the Leeds North West constituency know that you have my support in your current strike action.

I know people don't take strike action lightly and you will have thought deeply about the impact on students and on the reputation of the University of Leeds before deciding this was a necessary action for the union to take.

I understand that job security is a significant problem in the higher education sector and it would be heartening to see the university and the union working together to improve job security rather than being in a dispute about academic freedom and the university wanting more flexibility to dismiss people.

We work well when we work together, and I hope the university will find a way to work collaboratively with the staff union to resolve this problem so everyone can move forward feeling valued and secure and focus on the excellent teaching and research work for which the University of Leeds is rightly internationally renowned.

Alex Sobel MP

Hilary Benn's blog: http://www.hilarybenn.org/leeds_university_statute_revisions

John McDonnell's message of support:

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