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Labour shadow education secretary Tristram Hunt shocked striking university workers yesterday by crossing their picket line — to teach students about Marx and Engels.
Mr Hunt “hurried” past members of academics’ union UCU at Queen Mary University of London who were taking part in national dispute against years of pay cuts.
Most strikers joined two-hour walkouts between 9am and 11am, but lecturers at Queen Mary and 11 other institutions stayed out all day because bosses docked them a full day’s pay for a short strike last week.
Pickets told of their shock when the frontbencher and academic snubbed the strike to lecture undergraduates taking his “Marx, Engels and the Making of Marxism” module.
Queen Mary politics lecturer Dr Lee Jones was standing on a picket line when he spotted him heading inside.
He told the Star: “I shouted over to say surely the shadow secretary of state for education from the Labour Party is not going to cross the picket line.
“He stopped and looked shamefaced, I suppose.
“He said: ‘I’m not a UCU member’, turned away and carried on walking. I shouted after him: ‘Maybe you should be.’
“He sort of just hurried away. People couldn’t quite believe it. It was galling.”
A spokesman for Mr Hunt said only that he crossed the picket line because “he is not a member of UCU.”
Mr Hunt has taught history at Queen Mary since 2001 and became a familiar face as a TV historian before being elected as MP for Stoke Central in 2010.
His biography of Friedrich Engels was published in the same year.
He continues to teach two classes, including the module labelled “an exploration of the intellectual origins and development of Marxism.”
Dr Jones said he thought it was a “really good thing” when Labour leader Ed Miliband made fellow teacher Mr Hunt shadow education secretary last year.
“You would think he would have something good to say from the Labour Party about the fact we’re trying to halt privatisation of universities and a massive attack on pay, which affects everybody from cleaners to professors,” he said.
“But instead he chooses to cross the picket line. It speaks volumes.”
UCU members have taken action with colleagues in Unite, Unison and Scottish education union EIS to demand a decent pay rise.
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