Negotiate or face strikes

The national leadership of the further education lecturers' union made conciliatory overtures to the management of James Watt College this week, despite the decisions by its members there to pass a vote of no confidence in Graham Clark, the interim principal, and to ballot on strike action.

Dr Clark said these moves meant that the Further Education Lecturers'

Association had "de-recognised the college". This is the second time Dr Clark has been involved in a de-recognition row with a further education union, the previous occasion being at Falkirk College when he was principal.

The FELA, part of the Educational Institute of Scotland, has been at loggerheads with the new James Watt College management over its five-year recovery plan, which was approved by the college board last week. The plan envisages the loss of 35 lecturers' jobs which, although 13 less than originally predicted, was not enough to placate the union's local leadership.

But Marian Healy, the EIS national further and higher education officer, said the recovery plan "goes some way to putting the college back on the road to stability". The union now wanted to enter into talks with the management.

"There are implications for staff which can only be addressed through consultation and negotiation with the union. We must remain central to the negotiating process. If not, industrial relations will collapse and it is likely there will be industrial action sanctioned by the EIS," she warned.

Ms Healy said the crucial factors for the EIS were how the college management handled the voluntary severance process and the reduction in the 25 academic schools to 12.

The college management says it needs to reduce staffing levels and costs, and rein in the expansion of the curriculum, to begin the process of paying off its pound;6.8 million accumulated debts.

Dr Clark insists that the measures he has outlined will have to be in place by the end of July so the college board can sign off the 2005-06 accounts declaring the college a going concern, and allow it to achieve a balanced budget in 2007-08.

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