Hull College Group, one of Britain’s largest FE institutions, could be hit by strike action by staff after controversial proposals were made this week to slash more than 200 jobs in a bid to reduce costs.
The redundancies, which would put 231 people out of work, were announced by the college’s chief executive, Michelle Swithenbank, on Monday. She said that “some difficult decisions have to be made” to secure the future of the college.
The threatened job losses prompted an emergency meeting of the college’s branch of the UCU college staff union. Dave Langcaster, the UCU branch joint secretary, told Tes: “We had a branch meeting at which members voted overwhelmingly in favour of a motion to go into dispute.”
UCU regional official Julie Kelley added: "This announcement is a major blow to hard-working college staff, many of whom have been through several other redundancy rounds in recent years. The proposed cuts would mean a huge loss of expertise and can only lead to fewer learning opportunities for local people. UCU is consulting with the college management with a view to minimising the impact of the proposals on staff and students. We will be strongly opposing any compulsory redundancies or detrimental changes to terms and conditions, and the branch is considering moves towards industrial action."
The decision by the college to shed jobs comes just months after it agreed to radical changes in the way it operates, dubbed a “fresh start” in an area review of colleges by the Department for Education.
Hull College has been under mounting scrutiny during the past year, with government officials concerned at the state of its finances. A report by the FE commissioner last February warned that the college has built up a “cumulative deficit of around £10 million over the past four years”, while “a further deficit in excess of £1 million is forecast for the current year”.
It added that despite previous cuts to staffing levels, the staff costs are “unaffordable for the college”.