BREAKING: MP pulls out of university event to avoid crossing picket line

Manchester Central MP Lucy Powell has given UCU members a boost in their fight to save their pensions by refusing to deliver a lecture while staff are on strike.

Powell was due to give the annual Harry Street lecture at the University of Manchester on February 22, but said she does not cross picket lines and cancelled as soon as she realised the date clashed with the staff strike. She also urged universities’ representatives, Universities UK, to return to talks with the union in order to resolve the dispute.

UCU members at Manchester, and 61 other universities across the UK, will walk out on February 22 as part of an escalating programme of strikes over a four-week period.  The dispute centres on universities’ proposals to slash the benefits of the Universities Superannuation Scheme (USS) pension scheme. UCU says this would leave a typical lecturer almost £10,000 a year worse off in retirement than under the current set-up.

In the recent strike ballot UCU members overwhelmingly backed industrial action. Overall, 88% of members who voted backed strike action. The turnout was 58%. At Manchester 90% backed strike action on a turnout of 55%.

Manchester Central MP Lucy 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 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.”

Academic Gregor Gall believes the strike vote represents another defeat for the Tories’ anti-union laws. Read his article here.

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