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More than 1,000 staff set to strike at University of Liverpool

Image: University of Liverpool

Row over proposed job cuts escalates as dates set for three weeks of strikes

Almost 1,300 staff at the University of Liverpool are planning to strike for three weeks in an escalation of the row over proposed job cuts at the Faculty of Health and Life Sciences.

Members of the University and College Union will strike for three weeks during the university’s end-of-year exam period, which, according to the union, means the “disruption for the university will be especially severe”.

On 10 May, the UCU began industrial action, including only working to contracted hours and boycotting all voluntary activities, and said it would escalate on 24 May when 1,290 staff will take part in strikes lasting until 11 June. 

The row between the union and the university centres around a proposed restructure at the Faculty of Health and Life Sciences. In a ballot last month, 84 per cent of UCU members at the university who voted backed strike action, while 90 per cent backed action short of a strike over the changes.

Metric fight

UCU says a total of 47 jobs were originally at risk as a result of the restructure, but this has dropped to 32 following negotiations between the union and the university. It also says that controversial selection criteria used to identify staff at risk of redundancy have been altered.

The union believes the metrics were unsuitable and unfair in the way they used research and grant income and other data, while the university has previously said the selection criteria were “fair, reasonable, non-discriminatory, and take account of the many different ways in which individuals contribute in their roles”.

Despite the changes, UCU regional official Martyn Moss said that Liverpool “has two weeks to stop its senseless attack on jobs and withdraw these proposals if it wants to halt the strike action”.

Liverpool’s UCU branch president Anthony O’Hanlon said there was “no economic or moral justification for these redundancies” and that “to prevent a campaign of sustained industrial action, all the university has to do is withdraw them”.

In a statement, the University of Liverpool said, “Making proposals of redundancy is a difficult decision for any organisation and we are working hard to limit the impact, including offering potentially affected colleagues a significant voluntary severance package. We believe the amended process and criteria demonstrates a considered response to the representations made by UCU, which represents around 20 per cent of the university workforce, and it is regrettable that industrial action has been called before this consultation process has even concluded.”

It added, “We recognise that industrial action will be a cause of concern for staff and students alike, and we are particularly disappointed that it has been called during our students’ assessment period, after this already challenging academic year. The university has processes in place to help keep any disruption to a minimum and is prioritising this.”

UPDATED 10/5—This story  was updated after publication with comment from the University of Liverpool.