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Leeds MP Hilary Benn backs striking staff in row at University of Leeds

11 October 2017 | last updated: 21 June 2021

Leeds Central MP Hilary Benn has come out in support of staff on strike at the University of Leeds in a row over changes to the university's dismissal policies.

UCU members at the university walked out this morning and will be on strike until Friday. The industrial action follows the university's decision to amend its employment statute. The university wants to introduce a new catch-all power which would allow staff to be dismissed for "Some Other Substantial Reason".

Writing on his blog Benn 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.

However, after the dispute escalated and staff voted for strike action, Benn said he has written to three government ministers about the issue and signed the union's petition calling for the changes to be scrapped.

UCU 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.

UCU general secretary Sally Hunt said: 'We are delighted that Hilary Benn has made clear his opposition to the university's plans and added his name to our petition. We hope that his intervention will ensure the university now comes back to work with us to avoid further disruption. 

'These plans could allow the university to sack people for all sorts of dubious reasons and even restrict staff from pursuing new ideas or controversial topics within their daily work. We are pleased Hilary Benn has written to ministers expressing his concerns.'

UCU members will be on picket lines outside entrances to the university from 7:30am on Thursday and Friday mornings, including the main entrance via the Parkinson Steps on Woodhouse Road. In a ballot of UCU members, two-thirds (67%) of those who voted backed strike action.