‘Talk to the unions’, UNISON urges colleges in England

Union calls for full engagement with workforce following government guidance on area reviews and their implementation

English colleges need to make sure they talk to staff and their unions when it comes to the ‘area reviews’ in the sector, says UNISON.

The reviews, which are overseen by transition boards cover post-16 education in England and will allow colleges to carry out restructurings, mergers, joint ventures and curriculum changes.

But UNISON says guidance on the process published by the Department for Education falls short when it comes to giving the workforce a voice.

“UNISON will be calling on colleges and transition boards overseeing area reviews to fully engage with trade unions at the earliest opportunity and throughout any restructuring process,” says national officer Ruth Levin.

The union will urge all colleges “to protect jobs and fully consider the equality impact of any changes on both students and staff.”

However, Ms Levin says the union welcomes reminders to colleges in the government guidance that they are “expected to publish information on their top three salaries” and that “high value” packages for incoming and outgoing staff are likely to attract public interest.

The DfE guidance covers both implementing the reviews and the due diligence that needs to be carried out around any proposed restructuring, mergers, etc.

The implementation guidance does say that staff and unions should be “engaged” – alongside students, parents and carers, employers and the local press.

But the more detailed guidance on due diligence only mentions unions as an “additional barrier” to change, says Ms Levin.

And the advice on carrying out equality impact assessments does not make it clear that colleges need to consider the impact of any changes on staff as well as on students.