Members of University and College Union’s Liverpool branch will begin voting from 22 July at noon over possible industrial action, with the ballot set to run until 6 September. It is the first time such a ballot has taken place among UCU members at Liverpool.
A “yes” vote could trigger an escalating programme of strike action this autumn and measures short of a strike, such as refusing to work unpaid overtime.
The vote follows anger at a letter to staff that said they must accept new contracts or face three months’ notice of dismissal, after which they would be rehired on the new terms.
Unions claim the revised contracts would increase staff working at weekends, evenings and bank holidays without the appropriate time off in lieu.
UCU regional official Martyn Moss said the university’s decision to “ride roughshod over procedures we have agreed with them” and threaten staff with dismissal had led to the ballot.
“Staff will simply not sit back and be treated in this way,” Mr Moss said. “That is why they have asked their union to ballot them for strike action for the very first time in a dispute with the University of Liverpool.”
It follows the announcement by Liverpool that it is serving notice to staff of a 45-day consultation period, which came into effect in April, as opposed to a 90-day consultation period previously agreed with unions.
“Nobody ever wants to take strike action and the dedicated staff at the University of Liverpool are no different,” said Mr Moss.
“If the vice-chancellor wants to avoid disruption he needs to look again at this heavy-handed approach to negotiations and understand that other institutions do not treat their staff in this way.”
A university spokesman has said the changes will help to “standardise the terms and conditions for the university’s non-academic and academic-related staff” and “provide greater consistency and transparency about the circumstances in which staff become eligible for certain terms such as pay supplements or compensatory time off”.
“We are aware of the UCU’s plans to ballot for strike action; we remain committed to achieving an agreement with the trades unions on the terms of the new contract,” he added.