Liverpool strikes off as compulsory redundancies averted

Final two staff members facing axe allowed to leave on more generous terms following long-running industrial action and international boycott

October 1, 2021
University of Liverpool
Source: iStock

Union members at the University of Liverpool have cancelled a third round of strike action after the institution withdrew the final compulsory redundancies threatened in its Faculty of Health and Life Sciences.

Members of the University and College Union had been due to walk out for five days from 4 October – the first full week of teaching – in solidarity with the two final academics facing the sack. But an agreement was reached when managers allowed the pair “to reconsider our offer of voluntary severance and leave on the same terms as other individuals who have recently left”, the university said.

Originally 47 jobs had been at risk as part of a wide-ranging restructuring of the faculty, and Liverpool faced international criticism for the methodology used to select staff for the axe, which initially focused on research grant income and citation impact scores.

The number of redundancies was whittled down following 24 days of strike action in May and August, with the selection criteria also being revised. UCU hit 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, and a global academic boycott – its ultimate sanction – as the university insisted on making compulsory redundancies.

But that threat has finally been averted. The Liverpool spokeswoman said that the deal was struck after UCU regional officers made an approach to the university’s senior leadership.

“Agreement was reached yesterday to enable two colleagues to reconsider our offer of voluntary severance and leave on the same terms as other individuals who have recently left. This includes one colleague who had previously been issued with a notice of compulsory redundancy,” the spokeswoman said.

“The university’s position from the outset has been to make every possible, reasonable effort to avoid a scenario where compulsory redundancies are necessary. As such, we are pleased that UCU revisited the proposal originally put forward by the university in May to enable colleagues to leave on these terms and that as a result, our students will not have to endure further disruption next week.

“This will enable the university to focus now on [its] ambitious plans to further strengthen [its] research portfolio.”

Jo Grady, UCU’s general secretary, said that she welcomed the decision.

“This outcome is down the efforts of our members and the amazing displays of solidarity from the hundreds that have taken part in the dispute, as well as the support they received from the students and the people of Liverpool who backed staff,” Dr Grady.

“Whilst any job losses are unwelcome, I hope this outcome will reverberate through the whole sector and show that staff, students and the wider community are prepared to stand together to resist staffing cuts. We now hope industrial relations at the university can get back on to a constructive footing.”

chris.havergal@timeshighereducation.com

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