The University and College Union has called for a maths lecturer to be reinstated after he was dismissed for writing the word “racist” on a poster promoting the Prevent programme.
According to the union, Dave Muritu was dismissed for gross misconduct by Sandwell College, in the West Midlands, on Wednesday. He is said to have admitted to drawing on the poster and apologised for his actions but was summarily dismissed last week.
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Union threatens industrial action
Mr Muritu is the local branch secretary of the UCU, and played a key role in negotiating a pay deal for staff last year. The UCU has launched a petition calling on Sandwell College to reinstate Mr Muritu, and warned that industrial action could be on the cards if he is not reinstated.
The Prevent strategy, launched in 2003 as part of the government’s counter-terrorism strategy, has been controversial with both colleges and schools. It aims to stop individuals from "getting involved in or supporting terrorism or extremist activity".
In January, security minister Ben Wallace announced an independent review of Prevent in the House of Commons, as MPs considered amendments to the Counter-Terrorism and Border Security Bill.
Paul Cottrell, the UCU acting general secretary, said: “The college has lost all sense of proportion in dealing with Mr Muritu’s case. The incident was clearly a moment of frustration for which he has apologised, but the college has refused to budge from its hardline position.
“The college has acknowledged that his actions didn’t bring the college into disrepute, so it seems this incident is being used as an excuse to attack Mr Muritu for his trade union activities. We will not simply stand by and allow this to happen, and the college should be prepared to face industrial action if the decision is not swiftly reversed.”
'Safeguarding of paramount importance'
A spokesperson for the college said: "Safeguarding is of paramount importance to everybody at Sandwell College and we expect everybody to act professionally, ensuring that we adhere to our statutory duties whilst creating the best possible environment for all of our students and staff to thrive. Although we do not share details of internal HR matters, it is important to note that we recently conducted a thorough investigation into a serious disciplinary matter which resulted in the decision being made to terminate the employment of a member of staff.
"They, of course, have the right to appeal and therefore it would not be right for us to say any more at this time. The college has been notified that UCU wish to enter into a dispute with the college following the dismissal of the staff member. The college does not accept and refutes UCU comments. The college has taken necessary steps to minimise the impact of any action and will continue to operate as normal."