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A bombshell for college harmony

Poor industrial relations in further education is back in the headlines. In last week's FE Focus, Bill Wardle of James Watt College wrote about the "mandate for modernisation within colleges, particularly in human resources" being driven by the need for flexibility. At the same time, Mr Wardle was issuing a circular warning of more than 100 redundancies among lecturers and a mass rehiring of staff on amended conditions of service.

Whatever the merits of modernisation, this is a rather strange way to go about managing change . Such an approach will do little to raise morale and lift attainment and inclusion, as the principal advocated last week.

So what is this about? The country's second largest college has not been at the forefront of cash concerns and seems to have financial security within its grasp, unless there are internal figures we do not know about. Perhaps it is a college management putting its marker down big style? Maybe it wants confrontation with the lecturers' union as a way of instigating modernisation and busting collective strength once and for all in the FE sector. Others will be watching from the wings. And what role does the funding council, on behalf of the Scottish Executive, play in this?

Whatever lies behind this employment bombshell, what lies in front is a serious and damaging dispute.

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