The country’s ability to deliver “a world class skills and technical education” is under threat, as further education colleges are announcing hundreds of planned redundancies.
Hull College announced this week that it is seeking the equivalent of 231 full-time redundancies. It currently employs 1,044 people – many of them part-time – in the equivalent of 789 full-time jobs on three campuses in Hull, Goole and Harrogate.
And for those whose jobs survive the proposed 30% cut, management is seeking dismissal and re-engagement on worse terms and conditions.
Also this week, Kirklees College, based in Dewsbury and Huddersfield in West Yorkshire, announced plans to cut 67 jobs with a formal 90-day notice under section 188 of the Trade Union and Labour Relations Act (TULRA).
Management had previously backed off plans to cut staff terms and conditions.
Bury College in Greater Manchester is in talks with UNISON and teaching union UCU about proposed voluntary redundancies among both teaching and support staff.
UCU, with UNISON support, has lodged a grievance with the college over concerns that its consultation breaches TULRA.
And in Nottinghamshire, Nottingham College has announced plans to make the equivalent of 62 full-time jobs redundant.
That comes just six months after earlier redundancies, which saw 167 full-time equivalent jobs put at risk following the college’s creation by the merger of Central College Nottingham and New College Nottingham in June last year.
The latest redundancy move also comes just two weeks after the college received the go-ahead for a new £58m campus in central Nottingham.
The college also plans to create 32 jobs, but will only say that some of them “may” go to some of the staff under threat in the latest round of proposals.
UNISON national officer Ruth Levin noted that the latest redundancy announcements across the north of England and midlands come just a month after the Northern Powerhouse Project business group, chaired by former Chancellor George Osborne, called for more investment in education and skills training across the region for FE funding to be devolved.
“UNISON is concerned that an experienced workforce is being forced out at a time when there is increasing focus on ensuring that colleges are able deliver a world class education,” she added.
“With the government needing to fill the skills gaps ahead of Brexit and ensure that productivity increases these cuts are causing serious concern.”
A number of recent “intervention reports” on colleges, from the office of Further Education Commissioner Richard Atkins, have referred to a benchmark of staffing costs being no more than 65% of their income.
Ms Levin said this move to “drive down staffing budgets” is “concerning … when colleges’ greatest asset is their staff”.
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