As NATFHE delegates descend on Eastbourne, staff at crisis-hit Cricklade College were meeting with management in an 11th hour bid to avert the threat of three further redundancies at the Hampshire college.
One of the three threatened business studies lecturers, Andrew Murray, is the union's southern regional secretary, a national negotiator and is likely to be elected onto its national executive this weekend.
Cricklade is one of several colleges being investigated by the South Wales fraud squad after allegations concerning a training company delivering IT courses paid for with European Social Fund money. The principal and financial director of the college have been suspended pending an investigation.
The union's general secretary Paul Mackney has appealed to Cricklade's management to do all it can to avoid job losses. He also called on other colleges to go into deficit rather than sack long-serving lecturers. "It's crazy that in terms of Government's plans for widening participation colleges should be getting rid of their most experienced staff."
The loss of 18,000 lecturers' jobs since incorporation was, he said, "an incredible cull". But he is optimistic at the outcome of a new agreement between the union, the Association of Colleges and the Association of Teachers and Lecturers. In a joint statement issued this week the three announced meetings to produce a framework document on pay, conditions and employment policies by early autumn.
But Mr Mackney stressed the need for real investment: "There is a major problem as the money that is being put in is for new initiatives which are being piled on to a disintegrating core."