Letter from NSTUC to Tristram Hunt

15 02 2014

                                                                                                             15th February 2014

Dear Tristram

I am writing on behalf of North Staffordshire Trades Union Council to express our extreme dismay at your decision to cross a picket line on Monday 10th February.  Your action fundamentally undermined members of the University and College Union (UCU) who were taking two-hour national action that day over fair pay.  Furthermore, it demonstrated a lack of respect for your colleagues at Queen Mary University, which is one of eleven universities in the UK where staff were engaged in a full day’s strike to protest at their institution taking the unprecedented step of deducting a full day’s pay for previous two-hour strikes.

As a front bench member of the Labour Party (the party founded by the trades unions to represent the working class) and as someone who works in higher education, you should be acutely aware of both the extent to which colleagues have faced a real terms 13% pay cut since 2009, and of the importance of showing solidarity by not crossing a picket line.  Members of UCU, Unison, Unite and EIS have been willing to sacrifice their pay as part of strike action for fair pay for all in the higher education sector.  You must have understood that they would be utterly dismayed to see the shadow education minister undermining the action and crossing their picket line.  UCU members – who are paid less than academics in most of the English-speaking world, including the USA, Canada and Australia – are feeling the squeeze of years of pay freezes and under-inflation pay offers and are not, like yourself, in the privileged position of having a MP’s salary of over £66,000 to supplement their pay.

It is also particularly troubling to read that you publicly defended your crossing of a picket line by saying that you did so due to a personal commitment to the students that you lecture.   Staff on picket lines across the country are striking precisely because of their commitment to students and to the future of higher education.  Staff who are not fairly paid are never going to be able to give students the best experience, however committed they may be to their profession.  Indeed the National Union of Students has highlighted the clear benefits that fair pay has to students in attracting excellent staff and maintaining a motivated workforce.  Furthermore, the ironic disjuncture between crossing a picket line of workers who are trying to defend fair wages and doing so to teach students about Marx and Engels, surely makes a mockery of the subject matter that you are teaching.

We urge you to make a public apology to the trades union movement, and especially UCU, Unison, Unite and EIS members in higher education, for crossing the picket line. We feel that this, alongside you joining the relevant trade union for your employment as a lecturer (UCU), will go some way to rectifying this situation.

Jason Hill

President of North Staffordshire Trades Union Council




One response

23 05 2014
Chris Anjuna

Oh Tristram…does solidarity mean nothing to you? 😦

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