Union braced for strikes as fears of more redundancies at the Learning and Skills Council grow. Joseph Lee reports
Staff at the Learning and Skills Council have been warned to prepare for massive job cuts which could see one in four of them being made redundant.
The Public and Commercial Services union, which represents civil servants working for the pound;9 billion FE funding body, claimed up to 1,000 jobs could be at risk.
Such losses would devastatefrontline services, said Ruth Serwotka, president of the union's LSC group. And she warned: "The LSC is already run on a shoestring and that shoestring is in danger of becoming a piece of worn out thread."
Mrs Serwotka said the LSC had already lost more than 1,000 staff since 2001.
The LSC, however, has refused to discuss how many redundancies might result from the reorganisation but declined to rule out the possibility of up to 1,000 job losses. Yet it said the union's warnings were premature.
In 2003 and 2004, the most recent round of cuts, 800 jobs were lost.
Strikes were averted only after a deal was struck with the unions to prevent compulsory redundancies.
Andrew Lloyd, PCS official for the LSC which represents 1,700 of the LSC's 4,000 staff, said such a promise would not be enough this time. The union would oppose any cuts and strike action would be an option, he said.
Mr Lloyd said: "We cannot envisage how they can streamline the organisation further. We cannot accept these cuts to jobs." He said the LSC was already relying on large numbers of temporary staff and consultants to fill the gaps left by previous rounds of cuts.
After the earlier wave of redundancies, the union said it feared further cuts as a result of Sir Peter Gershon's review of public services for the Treasury, which recommended a wholesale reduction in civil service staffing.
The LSC tried but failed to get an injunction from the High Court banning staff from striking in response to the proposed Gershon cuts.
Mrs Serwotka said the latest threat of restructuring vindicated the union's warning last year that the civil service review would mean further cuts for the LSC, despite its "patronising assurances" to staff that there were no plans for change.
She said: "Attempts to ameliorate everyone into believing that reshaping dealt with the threat from Gershon in a clever pre-emptive manner have fallen flat on the face.
"Someone in the LSC management structure needs to reflect long and hard on the circumstances we all now find ourselves."
The LSC said that any plans to restructure were prompted by its own reforms and not by the Gershon review. Sue Ashe, head of corporate communications, said: "This is something that the LSC is doing for itself.
"Agenda for Change is about the LSC as well. We need to change too. This is something which staff accept in principle and which Mark Haysom, our chief executive, has mentioned many times. Until we have discussed it with the staff representatives, local councils and other partner organisations, we really can't confirm the detail that the union seems to have knowledge of.
"At the moment, we don't really know the extent of it."
It is understood that the LSC will make a formal announcement within weeks.