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Lecturers hold strike ballot over job cuts

Staff at a Lancashire college are to vote on strike action after being told to reapply for their own jobs as part of proposals for mass redundancies, writes Ben Russell.

A quarter of lecturers at Nelson and Colne College face redundancy under proposals put to staff by principal Kathleen Belton. Under the plans 37 posts will be axed from the ranks of lecturers, managers and support staff.

Local leaders of lecturers' union NATFHE said staff were also being forced to reapply for their own jobs on lower pay scales; meaning a salary cut of around Pounds 3,000-a-year.

Outraged lecturers held a demonstration outside the college on Monday and students staged a sit-in to protest at the cuts.

A new management structure for the college is due to be approved at a board meeting on February 20. Management staff will be appointed in March, with other jobs being advertised in April. Final dismissal notices will go out to redundant staff in May.

A schedule of proposed redundancies shows cuts across the board at the college, with two assistant pricipal posts and four middle management posts among the proposed cuts. College NATFHE executive member Catherine Russell said feeling was running high and members were expecting an overwhelming vote for industrial action.

"We want the principal to be accountable to the community we serve," she said. "We are accountable for our results and the college ought to be accountable as well."

A statement from principal Kathleen Belton said the college, which employs 188 full-time and 464 part-time staff, needed to restructure to make required efficiency savings. She said: "Whilst these measures are inevitable given the financial requirements it is an opportunity to strengthen the service Nelson and Colne College provides.

"The college is only one of many local organisations which has had to restructure in recent times in order to meet future challenges. It has been one of the few colleges in the area which has so far beenable to avoid redundancies.

"It would wish to stress that the current and future learning programmes of the college will continue to give our students the opportunity to achieve success whatever their individual goals may be."

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