Last semester, Liverpool University was caught in a ruckus with trade union activists, amid claims a staff member was unfairly dismissed to silence her union activities. 

Dawn Holdman was one of the school administrators for the Liverpool School of Medicine before her untimely dismissal late last year, when the University of Liverpool made her compulsorily redundant 4 days before Christmas. Since then, her plight has attracted wide-ranging support; Holdman was the only active Trade Unionist in the School of Medicine, and the only member of staff whose role was made redundant. Friends, colleages and union representatives say these facts are not unrelated, and accuse the university of unfair dismissal.

Widespread support includes Liverpool TUC, who unanimously voted to fight for Dawn’s reinstatement. In late June, the Marxist Student raised further awareness about Holdman’s case, linking her campaign with the annual commemoration of the 1969 Stonewall riots – “Remember Stonewall, defend equalities, reinstate Dawn Holdman at the University of Liverpool” read one poster affiliated with the University and Colleges Union (UCU).

As the petition calling for Holdman’s reinstatement passes its goal of 1,000 signatures, questions remain unanswered.

The University of Liverpool UCU branch committee said in a statement: “After 28 years of service at the University of Liverpool, our long serving UCU Equalities Officer, mother of four, Dawn Holdman was made compulsorily redundant days before Christmas 2016 . To add insult to injury, the job we believe she has been made unjustly redundant from, School Administrator in the School of Medicine, has been advertised externally!

“In a restructure involving 100s of members of staff, Dawn is the only member of staff to be made compulsorily redundant. She is also the only active Trade Unionist in that School. Other displaced members of staff were matched to similar roles without interviews. Dawn had to face a number of two hour interviews as a redeployee for roles, one of which is a supposedly downgraded version of her former role.

“Dawn was told she was ‘unsuccessful’ in this interview despite having undertaken the School Administrator role for 11 years, including 5 years in the School of Medicine without any performance issues and despite attending interviews after a suite of personal difficulties which the employer was aware of.

“Dawn has been a tireless campaigner and has represented countless members in the University of Liverpoool UCU branch. She gives unlimited time and energy to members who are at their lowest ebb and was part of our negotiating team for many years. Dawn made significant improvements to the Equality agenda at Liverpool.

“The University of Liverpool UCU branch committee believe that Dawn has been dismissed from her job because of her Trade Union activity. An injury to one is an injury to all and we hope all members of UCU locally, nationally and our students will demonstrate solidarity with Dawn where possible.

“We collectively call on the University of Liverpool to reinstate Dawn.”

The University of Liverpool was contacted for comment, but did not respond.