Letter to the Times Higher Education: Professorial position: Liverpool, think again

The Times Higher Education today published a letter signed by around 600 University professors calling for the University of Liverpool to “step back” from its descision to invoke the use of dismissal notices to change the contracts of 2803 non-academic staff:

Professorial position: Liverpool, think again

We recently heard that the University of Liverpool intends to issue dismissal notices to 2,803 “non-academic” staff – 54 per cent of the institution’s workforce (“Mersey motion rejects revised contract terms”, News, 20 June). After breaking off negotiations with the recognised trade unions, Liverpool’s management is attempting to force these workers on to inferior contracts, expecting them to work extra hours in the evenings, weekends and on bank holidays without appropriate compensation. Management action of this type on such a scale is unprecedented in the UK academy.

The fair treatment of all staff is vital to any university. Clerical, technical, manual, administrative, library, computing and other specialist staff are the people who provide the high-quality teaching and research environments that make scholarly work possible. Academics could not do their jobs without them.

We are shocked that Liverpool, with its proud reputation for international excellence in a range of disciplines as well as its tradition of civic and regional service, is resorting to such disreputable industrial relations practices. The management’s approach can only be disastrous for its relationship with staff.

We call upon Liverpool’s management and council to step back from the course of action upon which they have embarked and re-enter meaningful negotiations with the trade unions to reach a mutual and amicable agreement on the matters at hand.

Sir Iain Chalmers, professor, University of Liverpool; Steven Rose, emeritus professor, The Open University; Alan Sokal, professor, University College London; Diarmaid MacCulloch, professor, University of Oxford; and 600 other professors at UK universities

Readers’ comments (1)

Roger Brooks | 04 Jul 2013 11:05am

On behalf of the University of Liverpool UCU branch I would like to thank the senior academic colleagues from across the HE sector who have given us their support. We have been amazed at the extent of the solidarity shown, as well as by the huge number of private messages of support that have come in to our office.

The use of legislation usually reserved for redundancy consultation to dismiss and re-engage staff to achieve changes to working hours and to re-structure the working week must not be allowed to become standard practice in British universities. Our UCU branch is prepared to fully negotiate with a view to reaching a suitable agreement on the standardisation of PMSA contracts. Indeed the UCU was actually in negotiations on these issues until University declared that they would instead simply issue the legal notice of the intention to consult the trade unions over the use dismissal notices to achieve their ends.

We are also moved that so many senior academics have shown solidarity with their ‘non-academic’ colleagues. In reality of course we all depend on one another in working towards excellence in our work. In supporting this statement these signatories have shown that this is something that they understand and value.

With great appreciation and respect,

Dr Roger Brooks,
President, University of Liverpool UCU

View the full article on the Times Higher Education web site or view via University of Liverpool online subscription (requires UoL login).