Fighting fund banner


Outrage as University of Liverpool threatens health and life science jobs during pandemic

1 February 2021

UCU today said threats by the University of Liverpool to cut research-active staff in its Faculty of Health and Life Sciences would be disastrous during Covid-19.

University management wrote to UCU last week with a threat to cut up to 47 academics. The university is creating its own criteria to assess academics. This is based on individual research grant income and citation impact scores. The 47 academics deemed to be the worst performing are set to be axed by May - similar to the 'rank and yank' management approach Amazon has been criticised for using. They will face compulsory redundancy unless they accept a voluntary severance package they were offered, and had rejected, in summer 2020.

The cuts are impacting a faculty that is part of 'Liverpool STOP COVID', a city-wide group whose aim is to decrease the burden of Covid-19 locally, nationally and globally.

UCU said sacking 47 staff from the faculty during a pandemic flew in the face of 'Project SHAPE's first objective to respond to the needs of the community; that clearly the plans are not fit for a world where Covid-19 will be an ongoing presence; and sacking 47 staff in a pandemic during the worst job market for decades - through the use of Amazon style management tactics - was despicable.

UCU has asked the employer to use ACAS to try to resolve the issue but the employer responded saying that the University 'does not consider it appropriate to engage the services of ACAS'. UCU Liverpool branch said it held its biggest meeting ever to discuss the cuts, and that over 300 attendees voted to ballot branch members over taking industrial action.

UCU Liverpool branch president Anthony O'Hanlon said: 'The University of Liverpool is attempting to utilise 'rank and yank' practices to get rid of its perceived low performers. This brutal assault on jobs is more akin to the ruthless managerialism you would expect to see at a big corporate firm. It is not being proposed out of financial necessity.

'The attempts by the university to claim this attack on jobs is part of its civic responsibility to address health outcomes in the city will not wash with the people of Liverpool. This is the latest in a long line of catastrophic errors of judgement from senior managers at the university and UCU will be fighting against these redundancies and the pernicious criteria they are attempting to justify them with.'

UCU regional official Martyn Moss said: 'It is sickening that the University of Liverpool is trying to push through cuts to the Faculty of Health and Life Sciences, when we are in the middle of a pandemic, which members of the faculty are currently trying to fight, through Liverpool STOP Covid.

'The university needs to immediately halt these cuts so academics in the faculty can continue their crucial work rather than worry about having an almost one in four chance of being sacked. We cannot understand how the university has failed to 'reshape' its objectives in light of Covid and the supposed objective to respond to the community. We hope the university will work with us to stop these cuts, but we are now consulting members over balloting for industrial action as we cannot allow the university to sack its staff during the worst job market in decades.'

Last updated: 2 February 2021