Job losses and pay cuts planned as FE feels the pinch

4th May 2012 at 01:00
Figure of 750 proposed redundancies likely to double, union warns

Lecturers across the country are facing fresh redundancies and pay cuts as reduced funding levels for the next financial year start to bite. TES has learned that, to date, more than 750 redundancies have been proposed at more than 50 colleges.

And for those college teachers who appear to have escaped the axe, hundreds more face having their salaries cut by up to pound;9,000 a year as their employers look to make savings.

Barry Lovejoy, head of FE at the University and College Union (UCU), fears that the redundancies announced so far are just the tip of the iceberg. "I would be surprised if the total didn't double in the next three or four weeks," he said.

The job cuts follow the government's decision to slash the national FE budget by a quarter by 2015. Typically, the UCU says, funding levels at colleges for 2012-13 are being cut by between 7 and 12 per cent.

Several colleges are proposing dozens of redundancies, with St Helens (73), Sussex Downs (63), Hackney Community College (55) and Preston (54) heading the list. Most of these cuts have been announced within the past month - institutions received their final funding allocations before Easter.

UCU members are already holding strike ballots at some colleges, and the union is looking to coordinate industrial action at neighbouring institutions to maximise their impact.

Staff at Hackney Community College in East London were planning to protest today against what Rose Veitch, vice-chair of the college's UCU branch, described as its "largest cuts in a decade". The college is also proposing to reduce art, travel and tourism courses, and access to higher education provision, as it looks to cut its costs by pound;2 million - 9 per cent of its turnover.

"Hackney Community College has been hit year after year by course closures and staff redundancies. Many of us are now wondering where this spiral will end. With youth unemployment at an all-time high, and total joblessness in Hackney at over 7 per cent, there is a desperate need for a stable and thriving college in the borough," Ms Veitch said.

The college insists that it will retain more than 90 per cent of its current courses and is adding an extra 16 to 18 places. "As a team, we have demonstrated considerable resilience and an ability to work together to survive the challenges these cuts bring, to minimise redundancies and to continue to improve the service to our students," Ian Ashman, the principal, said.

The UCU will also ballot its members at Sunderland College about strike action over proposals to cut the salaries of more than 150 lecturers by pound;9,000 by moving them to a lower pay scale.

Iain Owens, the union's regional official, said: "Nobody is blind to the funding challenges facing FE at the moment, but there is no excuse for cutting pay in this way. The college's actions are completely disproportionate and seem little more than an attempt to deliver teaching on the cheap."

Nigel Harrett, the college's vice-principal for curriculum and student support, said that it had to make savings to "secure the long-term future and viability of the college".

"Difficult times mean taking difficult decisions, whether that's cutting jobs or cutting costs, and we are trying to keep job losses to an absolute minimum," he said.

Bolton College is consulting staff on plans to make 47 redundancies, to reduce teachers' pay by pound;7,000 and to cut their annual leave. "Regrettably, we have had to warn some staff that they are at risk of redundancy and that we propose changes to terms and conditions to enable efficiencies," Marie Gilluley, the principal, said. "A realignment of education provision and staffing levels is required in order for the college to meet the government's education, training and funding priorities while satisfying the national and local skills agenda."

Regional UCU official Lynn Collins painted a less rosy picture. "As well as slashing jobs, the college is effectively cutting pay in return for longer working hours with fewer days' annual leave," she said. "The proposals would have a devastating effect on staff and on students' education. Our members will now consider their next steps. Strike action remains very much on the cards."

Original print headline: Job losses and pay cuts of up to pound;9,000 planned as FE feels the pinch

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