Socialist Worker

Strikes stop all forced job cuts at Liverpool University

by Mark O’Brien
Issue No. 2775

UCU union members rally in Liverpool

UCU union members rally in Liverpool (Pic: John Carr)


Strikers at the University of Liverpool have won a fantastic victory to save jobs—stopping every compulsory redundancy bosses had planned.

University bosses announced plans in January to put the jobs of 47 health lecturers and researchers at risk.

But UCU union members responded with two rounds of strikes.

They also delivered a marking and assessment boycott that meant the university couldn’t issue marks and degrees for 1,500 students.

With each round of action, the number of jobs at risk came down. As of last week two jobs were still under threat.

Vindictively, managers had by now withdrawn voluntary severance offers. But UCU members had always said there was only one acceptable number—zero. They had voted to strike this week, determined to prevent every last redundancy,

The threat of further strikes forced bosses to go back to offering voluntary severance, and with improvements won earlier in negotiations.

This change stance successfully resolved the last two cases, and the redundancy list was closed.

This was a bottom-up strike in every sense.

Strike meetings took place every morning throughout the entire campaign—93 meetings altogether.

The attendance never dropped below 200 all through the summer. Strikers constantly talked with one another through a WhatsApp group of 220 people.

The solidarity work was extraordinary.

We had online rallies, invitations to speak to trade union branches coming in every day, and many tens of thousands of pounds in donations. This was all made possible by extensive national and local informal networks built by union activists.

During the marking boycott, members without teaching duties helped by sharing a proportion of their wages.

The fight was run with an unusual level of self-reliance.

Along with providing financial support in hardship cases, the UCU branch issued its own strike pay to members for the August strike period.

Local officers, reps and members also had to argue with the national union over crucial aspects of the dispute.

Members had to push the union to authorise the October strike days—and notification only finally went to bosses two minutes before the deadline.

This hard-fought for outcome should be seen as an inspiration to all trade unionists.

We can fight, even in very difficult circumstances, and we can win.


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