A trade union representing striking workers has criticised a Labour frontbencher after they apparently crossed a picket line while on party business.
Bill Esterson visited Sheffield University’s Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre (AMRC) on Friday while staff at the university were on strike.
After Mr Esterson posted photos of himself inside the centre, Jo Grady, general secretary of the University and College Union (UCU), tweeted: “There’s a picket line at Sheffield University. It’s hard enough for our members to see management cross the picket lines let alone Labour MPs. You know better than this, surely? Let’s hope this is a misunderstanding.”
Mr Esterson, the party’s shadow business minister, said he did not see a physical picket at the research centre and that if he had he would not have gone in. But Ms Grady said the dispute was “high profile” enough that the Labour politician should have known to stay away.
“A lot of physical picket lines were stood down yesterday because of danger posed by Storm Eunice, Bill. But the high profile dispute remains,” she said. “We have five more days strike action over the next fortnight. Do let UCU know what day you could make it to show your support.”
The AMRC is located in a business park to the east of Sheffield and not on the main university campus. The Sefton Central MP said: “There wasn’t a picket line. Otherwise, I wouldn’t have gone in.” Labour declined to add further comment.
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It is the second time in recent months that Labour politicians have been criticised for crossing picket lines in Sheffield. In December, Sheffield City council leader Terry Fox walked past protesting staff and into a university building before re-emerging to say he had decided not to cross the picket to attend a council meeting there in solidarity with workers.
But those on strike outside pointed out that Mr Fox and other Labour councillors had already crossed their picket on the way in. Academic staff represented by UCU are on strike across the UK over a dispute about pensions, pay and working conditions.