LECTURERS at a London college are threatening to strike over plans to make nearly 600 part-
timers - nearly 85 per cent of the teaching staff - redundant and replace them with agency staff.
Greenwich Community College - which merged with Woolwich College 18 months ago - wrote to 597 lecturers saying that if negotiations over proposed new terms and conditions broke down they would "be redundant".
But NATFHE, the lecturers union, rejected the offer of a four-point pay scale for part-timers, with a top rate of pound;19 an hour.
It is demanding a top rate of pound;22 per hour but its offer to take the dispute to conciliation has been refused by the college management. Keith Williams, the branch secretary, said: "The management is saying that we are being offered pound;19 per hour but that's top-whack. The bottom rate is pound;16.50. It's not a grand offer at all. It's desperately low,"
The union is concerned that that part-timers re-employed through a third-party agency such as Education Lecturing Services will be denied their rights to paid holidays, sick leave and other benefits under new regulations announced by the Government this month.
Mr Williams said that the proposals were "a way of avoiding its obligations to give parity to part-tme staff as required by law".
He said: "It's like they are holding a gun to our heads and saying accept this or the college gets it." Union members at the college, who number around 160 out of a total staff of 700, would be balloted soon over a one-day strike, planned for June 21.
He said the college could become the first test case of Education Secretary David Blunkett's assurance earlier this month that employment agencies would not be allowed to "drive a coach and horses" through new employment law giving equal rights to part-timers.
A spokeswoman for the college said it would cost it an estimated pound;500,000 to fund part-timers' entitlements to holiday and sick pay. She added: "We are considering a number of options for the future."
THREE former employees of Cricklade college - including Andrew Murray, the former NATFHE officer who blew the whistle on alleged mismanagement - have lost employment tribunal cases. The tribunal ruled that the redundancies were fair.
Mr Murray had claimed he had been victimised at the Hampshire college because of his trade union activities. NATFHE is considering an appeal.
An independent report into alleged financial irregularities at the Hampshire college is due out shortly.