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Sheffield strike called off for now

SHEFFIELD College lecturers have lifted their threat of a strike while they work with management to avoid compulsory redundancies.

NATFHE union members voted overwhelmingly to strike when more than 70 staff faced being forced out of their jobs. But after meetings with management last Friday, they agreed to postpone industrial action while both sides examine other ways the college can save a pound;500,000.

They have until next Tuesday to put a solution before the governing body. Talks have been continuing throughout this week. But if the prospect of redundancies remains, NATFHE says it will strike from September 28.

The unrest follows a review of FE in Sheffield this year by acting principal Sir George Sweeney and Dr Terry Melia, chair of the Further Education Development Agency. As part of a revamp, it was recommended that 186 jobs go. Around 115 applications for voluntary redundancy are believed to have been accepted.

However, college marketing manager Alan Biggin says forced redundancies an be avoided. "There is a clear way forward for a solution that suits everyone," he said. "John Taylor, the principal, has put 100 per cent of his time into resolving this."

Various money-saving alternatives are being considered. "We'd like to examine the cases of those who volunteered for redundancy and were refused," said NATFHE regional organiser Russ Escritt.

"There has also been talk about a task force to develop adult and community education in Sheffield, which will bring more income. And there is the possibility of bringing a computer operation back within college which has been run as a franchise."

Despite the uncertainty at Sheffield throughout the summer, Mr Biggin says that enrolment has "held its own" in comparison with last year, and that the number of courses each student is doing has increased.

Special report on mergers in English colleges, including Sheffield, in the October edition of TES College Manager. Subscriptions: call Matthew Kelly on 020 7782 3320.

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