Strike action could be taken at the University of Liverpool following the announcement of a controversial round of redundancies.
The planned 47 redundancies in the Health and Life Sciences faculty have attracted criticism from staff, the wider academic community and unions due to the way it has been decided which staff will face redundancy.
Unions have criticised the “unprecedented” decision that appears to use criteria based on metrics to measure research performance.
Branch President of the University of Liverpool UCU Anthony O’Hanlon told JMU Journalism: “They are using criteria on research performance based on research grant income and a Field Weighted Citation Index score of 2.0 which essentially means that each member of staff needs to be cited twice as many times as the average in their field.
“These are highly questionable metrics and the international research community has denounced management’s approach and particularly the responsible metrics community has condemned this use as it does not accurately measure performance. Staff were never told they would be assessed based on these metrics and they have never been agreed with UCU.”
Union members have been balloted this week with industrial action now possible.
Mr O’Hanlon said: “The details of what industrial action would look like are still to be agreed democratically as a branch but in the largest meeting in the history of the branch we have already agreed that we will move towards sustained industrial action if these brutal proposals are not shelved.”
Some academics have taken to social media to criticise the proposals.
My uni is threatening redundancy to 47 of my faculty colleagues. Those identified were chosen based on grant income and ‘field weighted citations’. Not grants applied for, no consideration of teaching load, admin roles, or any mitigating circumstances #LiverpoolRedundancies (1/x)
— Dr Suzi Gage (@soozaphone) March 1, 2021
Shocked that prolific researchers @LivUni who I admire and cite are under threat of compulsory redundancy based on non-transparent applications of metrics. Incompatible with @DORAssessment https://t.co/A1UFw02Mmh pic.twitter.com/2BTAiYkoHB
— Vera Kempe (@vkempe) February 26, 2021
The University of Liverpool dispute the claims stating that a wide range of factors were considered as part of the proposal that included a measure of research income over a five-year period that was used to identify staff who may potentially be placed at risk of redundancy.
A university spokesperson told JMU Journalism: “At this point, a range of factors that might remove colleagues from the pool of those potentially at risk were considered, including the contribution of positive citation metrics where appropriate.
“The University did not use weak citation metrics to identify those at risk of redundancy, and would not endorse such an approach. Recognition was also given to other indicators including impact case study authorship, leadership contribution and membership of external bodies.
“The University does not make proposals of redundancies lightly, and is working hard to limit the impact that the proposals will have upon our staff and students.”
The University of Liverpool added it is currently engaged in the formal process of collective consultation with trade unions about the proposed redundancies to try to “identify opportunities to mitigate and reduce the impact of these proposals, where possible.”
Last week Liverpool councillor Sarah Doyle put forward a motion at the Labour group meeting expressing “concern and dismay” at what she described as “irresponsible actions” of the University of Liverpool.
At this evening Labour Group meeting I proposed that we send our solidarity to @ULivUCU2 and @LivUni workers who are facing redundancy. This was unanimously supported. We will contacting the university immediately to express our concerns and dismay at their irresponsible actions. https://t.co/rzpOIMFxhf
— Sarah Doyle (@srcdoyle) March 2, 2021
Mr O’Hanlon added: “There is huge anger across the entire university but those staff at risk are taking great strength in the support and solidarity they are receiving from their colleagues.
“Talks are ongoing with senior management and we would urge them to step back from these proposals now.”