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Stourbridge 19 told to sign or face the sack

Nineteen lecturers at a West Midlands college have been told they face the sack if they do not sign new contracts of employment.

The raising of stakes in the conditions of service dispute at Stourbridge College comes as new figures reveal an apparent easing of the long-running contracts conflict nationally.

According to the lecturers' union NATFHE, almost half of college lecturers are now covered by locally-agreed contracts following negotiations on replacing the Silver Book agreement which laid down pay and conditions for colleges under local authority control.

The union claims the new settlements almost invariably reflect its demand for a top-limit on weekly hours - a key bone of contention in failed national negotiations between NATFHE and the Colleges' Employers' Forum.

But Roger Ward, chief executive of the CEF said that "the overwhelming majority are extremely close to the model CEF contract."

The 21 staff at Stourbridge College who had not yet agreed to switch to new terms were told they must do so by November 10 or lose their jobs at the end of the year. One signed the new contract, another opted to retire at Christmas.

The union, claiming the college's stance runs against current trends towards local settlements, has launched a Stourbridge 19 defence campaign to urge supporters to protest against the so-called "strong-arm tactics".

It is also taking the college to a tribunal over alleged lack of consultation over redundancies.

Meanwhile, principal David Toeman is interviewing the non-signing staff in an attempt to agree an individualised version of the contract.

NATFHE national negotiating officer Sue Berryman said the union would be fighting hard to protect Stourbridge jobs. In the past three weeks 11 colleges have held industrial action ballots.

A further 60 have permission to ballot.

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