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Solidarity Labour MP refuses to cross picket line in solidarity with striking lecturers

Lucy Powel says: ‘I don't cross picket lines’

A LABOUR MP has cancelled a lecture she was due to give at the University of Manchester because she refuses to cross picket lines.

Lucy Powell was scheduled to deliver the address on Thursday February 22, the day that members of the University and College Union (UCU) launch a series of 14 strikes in defence of their pensions.

But the MP for Manchester Central cancelled her talk in solidarity with the lecturers’ struggle.

Her principled stand is in stark contrast to that of former MP Tristram Hunt, who crossed a picket line to deliver a lecture – ironically on Marx, Engels and the making of Marxism – four years ago today (Sat), as detailed by the Morning Star.

Employers’ organisation Universities UK (UUK), made up of highly paid vice-chancellors and principals from individual institutions, wants to abolish the element of the Universities Superannuation Scheme that guarantees a certain level of pension income in retirement.

UCU says this would leave a typical lecturer almost £10,000 a year worse off in retirement than under the current set-up.

Lecturers at 61 universities across Britain will be involved in the strike action against the proposal.

Ms Powell said: “I was due to give an annual lecture at the university on the day of the strike, but I have informed the university that I won’t be attending.

“I don’t cross picket lines and my attendance would send the wrong signal.

“I hope that Universities UK will get back round the table with the UCU to resolve this dispute.”

UCU members overwhelmingly supported industrial action in a recent ballot, with 88 per cent of members voting in favour on a turnout of 58 per cent.

At the University of Manchester, 90 per cent backed strikes on a 55 per cent turnout.

UCU general secretary Sally Hunt said: “We welcome Lucy Powell’s decision to cancel her appearance at the University of Manchester as a show of support for striking staff.

“This is yet another disruption to university life which could be avoided if the employers step back from their damaging proposals.

“It’s time Universities UK listened to the many voices urging them to commit to meaningful negotiations.”

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