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McDonnell and Sobel join chorus against sackings

LEEDS University lecturers striking against a “sackers’ charter” received further support from MPs yesterday.

Shadow chancellor John McDonnell and fellow Labour MP Alex Sobel, representing Leeds North West, gave their backing to the University and College Union (UCU) members, who began a three-day strike on Wednesday.

They join Leeds Central Labour MP Hilary Benn, who spoke out in support of the strikers this week.

University authorities want to add a catch-all phrase to the institution’s disciplinary procedure that would enable managers to sack an employee “for some other substantial reason,” on top of standard justifications such as gross misconduct.

The UCU argues that the “other substantial reason” phrase is open to abuse, giving as a hypothetical example the sacking of researchers who fail to come up with the outcome wanted by a commercial sponsor.

Mr McDonnell sent a message of “support and solidarity” to the strikers.

In a similar message, Mr Sobel said he knew people “don’t take strike action lightly” and added: “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.”

Mr Benn has contacted Vice-Chancellor Sir Alan Langland and written to government ministers Jo Johnson, Justin Greening and Andrea Leadsom. He has also signed a petition of support for the UCU.


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