Fresh strike over Liverpool job cuts targets clearing

Union members overwhelmingly back action even as number of compulsory redundancies slashed to two

August 3, 2021
University of Liverpool
Source: iStock

Union members at the University of Liverpool are set to begin 10 days of strike action on 4 August, coinciding with admissions confirmation and clearing.

University and College Union members will walk out from 4 to 7 August and 9 to 14 August, in a continuing dispute over job cuts in the Faculty of Health and Life Sciences.

Staff walked out for three weeks in May, and the number of compulsory redundancies has now been reduced to just two, down from an initial total of 47.

But Liverpool’s UCU branch said that 97 per cent of attendees at a virtual meeting were in favour of striking to protect the two colleagues still facing the axe.

A-level results will be publicly released on 10 August, but universities’ processing of scores is due to begin on 4 August.

Anthony O’Hanlon, president of the UCU branch, said Liverpool faced “the prospect of widespread disruption during one of the most crucial periods of the academic year”.

“We have made it abundantly clear we are prepared to take sustained industrial action whenever we are faced with the threat of compulsory redundancies,” he said.

“The ball is firmly in the employer’s court, and it can very easily avert any further disruption and reputational damage by simply withdrawing the threat of two remaining compulsory redundancies.”

The union has already targeted Liverpool with a marking and assessment boycott, which disrupted the university’s results day, when at least 1,500 students failed to receive their results.

The UCU also hit Liverpool with a global academic boycott – its ultimate sanction – amid criticism of the methodology being used to select staff for redundancy, which initially focused on research grant income and citation impact scores.

The union said managers had entered into discussions following the announcement of the boycott, and had suspended deductions to pay tied to the marking boycott. But the fate of the two staff members remains a key sticking point.

UCU general secretary Jo Grady said Liverpool’s management “have it in their gift to resolve this dispute”. “We are so close to putting this dispute behind us, but management need to do what is right and protect these final two jobs, resolve the dispute and avoid any further disruption,” she said.

The University of Liverpool has been approached for comment. The institution has insisted that the aim of its restructure was to “improve the overall research performance of our Faculty of Health and Life Sciences”.

The university had “engaged in formal, extended and meaningful consultation, with all our trade unions, in respect of these proposals and in direct response to concerns raised by UCU during the consultation period, the university has modified its approach to selection, resulting in a considerable reduction in the number of academic staff at risk of redundancy”, a spokeswoman had said previously.

“The university’s policies on change management/restructures and on redundancy have been agreed by all our trade unions and do not – and have never – included a commitment to no compulsory redundancy. It is disappointing, therefore, that UCU have chosen to criticise management colleagues for their alignment with such policies,” she said.

“The university continues to be clear that we do not make proposals of redundancy lightly, and we recognise that it is difficult for those directly impacted. To help mitigate this and in response to consultation, the university has increased the already significant voluntary severance package on offer to colleagues who remain at risk of redundancy.”

anna.mckie@timeshighereducation.com

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Reader's comments (2)

The management must really have it in for the two colleagues who are not yet off the hook. It's causing such damage to its reputation.
The management must really have it in for the two colleagues who are not yet off the hook. It's causing such damage to its reputation.

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