Lecturers at Accrington and Rossendale College in Lancashire are to be balloted on indefinite strike action after their branch secretary was made redundant on the last day of last term.
Pat Walsh, who teaches history and sociology, was given no notice of the proposed redundancy and given 10 minutes to clear his desk. He had been at the college for nine years and was getting married the following day. No other staff were made redundant.
The college is still reeling from events in the summer when 341 part-time staff were made redundant and told that in future Education Lecturing Services, the supply agency, would be recruiting. Meanwhile 20 cases are pending at industrial tribunals. The use of the agency is an embarrassment to Michael Austin, the principal, who has been scornful of ELS in the past in his TES column.
Mr Walsh, 35, is a leading left-winger on the executive of the lecturers' union NATFHE. He has appealed against the redundancy and also lodged a claim with an industrial tribunal. He said: "There are no grounds for redundancy and this is a clear attempt to victimise me because of my trade union activities. The decision has to be seen in the context of the bullying tactics of management over the past 12 months."
A NATFHE delegation, including general secretary John Akker, saw the principal on Monday. Mr Akker said: "Mr Walsh had a full teaching load and on Monday there were no arrangements to cover it. There is outrage both locally and nationally at this sacking and the college must reconsider."
Mr Austin said there had been a college review. He did not wish to comment until the appeal had been heard, but he said the redundancy was nothing to do with trade union activities. "This was never an issue, the only criterion was length of service as we said in the letter to Mr Walsh."
As for the use of ELS, it was usual for colleges to make part-timers "technically" redundant and then re-engage them in the autumn. "This year as usual we said they were all made redundant and in future we will be contracting with ELS who will identify those anxious to work at the college. We did not tell people to join ELS, but we will not be employing part-timers.
"I wrote a piece saying 'for Christ's sake, what is this (the agency) all about' but I did not say we were not going to use them. They were set up to respond to European legislation and that's what they do," he said.