Pressure mounts on University of Liverpool as UK professors unite in condemnation of dismissals

4 July 2013

Pressure is mounting on the University of Liverpool's management after hundreds of university professors from across the UK signed an open letter calling for it to step back from its proposal to dismiss 2,803 non-academic staff if they refuse to accept inferior contracts.

Eminent signatories to the letter, coordinated by UCU, include Sir Iain Chalmers of the University of Liverpool, Professor Steven Rose of the Open University, Professor Alan Sokal of University College London, and Professor Diarmaid MacCulloch of the University of Oxford, amongst a total of 600.

The professors expressed grave concern about the University of Liverpool's actions described as, 'unprecedented in the UK university sector.' The professors recognised that the threatened staff, who make up 54% of the total workforce and include professional, managerial, specialist and administrative staff, are the people who provide the high-quality teaching and research environments that make academic work possible.

The university had written to those 2,803 staff warning that unless the trade unions agreed to changes which included working additional hours at evenings, weekends and bank holidays without appropriate compensation, they would face three months' notice of dismissal and then be rehired on the new unfavourable conditions.

The letter, published in the Times Higher Education magazine today reads: 'The fair treatment of all staff is vitally important to the life of any university. Furthermore, we are shocked that a university such as the University of Liverpool with its proud reputation of international excellence in a range of academic fields as well as for civic service to its City region, is now resorting to such disreputable industrial relations practice.'

Professor Diarmaid MacCulloch of the University of Oxford, added: 'Universities by their nature should give an example of fairness, trust and good practice in relations between executive and employees whose business is to support research and independent investigation. The proposed actions in my old University of Liverpool endanger these delicate relationships, and represent a sorry episode in its long and honourable history.'

The professors called upon the university management and Council to step back and re-enter meaningful negotiations with trade unions.

A rally against the proposals was held on campus on Tuesday 2 July.

The university is also under fire for breaking its own redundancy protocols. It announced it is serving notice to staff of a 45-day consultation period. However, the agreement it has with staff and the unions is a 90-day consultation period.

Members of UCU at the University of Liverpool have voted unanimously in favour of holding a ballot for strike action. A 'yes' vote in the ballot could see an escalating programme of strike action and action short of a strike, which could involve things like refusing to work unpaid overtime.

Last updated: 10 December 2015