Governors consider apocalyptic strategy

Governors at a south London college are planning an "Armageddon" for staff, according to documents leaked to their local trades union council.

In the minutes of a strategy meeting, recently leaked to Battersea and Wandsworth TUC, governors at South Thames College discuss the need to shake up its internal structure by dramatically reducing staff numbers.

"Status quo not an option - Armageddon option is better than attrition," governors stated at the April meeting. They concluded that there was a need "to rationalise human resources in line with sector norms (or be like the Ancient Mariner and an albatross)".

Such an apocalyptic shake-up, says Graham Petersen, an industrial relations lecturer at the college and a representative of NATFHE, the lecturers'

union, is merely a cynical means of weeding out unwanted members of staff.

"We are faced with compulsory redundancies," he stated in a letter to the chair of governors. "These are not genuine redundancies. They appear to be an exercise in getting rid of individuals who, for a variety of reasons, are not wanted by management."

Geoff Martin, of Battersea and Wandsworth TUC, agrees that the plans reflect a policy of deliberate confrontation. "They are scratching around for ideas and coming up with these ludicrous options."

But college authorities deny that that references to an "Armageddon option" reflect policy. "The college is tackling a number of issues as part of a developing a human resources strategy, which is aimed at ensuring that we can operate efficiently and effectively," said principal Sue Rimmer.

The term "Armageddon option", she added, was "part of informal feedback from a governor discussion group. It does not refer to, or reflect, any approach which has been adopted by the governing body or college management."

While there have been five redundancies this year, college managers insist that this is a result of course restructuring, rather than deliberate cutbacks and staff have been taken on in areas of growth.

"We shall continue to consult with recognised trade unions," said Ms Rimmer.

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