Men they love to hate

6th June 2003 at 01:00
Two college principals who have been the most prominent betes noires of CLA activists remain top of the union hit list - Richard Millham at Motherwell and Peter Duncan at Glasgow College of Commerce.

Both featured in emergency denunciatory resolutions at the conference, fuelled by moves against branch office-bearers. Mr Millham and Mr Duncan vehemently deny union activities had anything to do with either of the cases involved.

Motherwell College was found by an employment tribunal to have acted unfairly in demoting Douglas Nicol, the CLA branch convener, who was accused of "wilfully disregarding his duties". The college is to appeal against the pound;44,500 compensation ruling.

The CLA points out that Mr Nicol's case is the sixth time a tribunal has gone against Motherwell College, which has had to pay out more than pound;60,000 in awards and settlements in five years. For once, the EIS and CLA are united in calling for an investigation.

Scott Aitken, CLA branch secretary at Motherwell, said the union was faced with breathtaking arrogance. "They conceded their actions against Douglas Nicol might have been excessive, might have been unfair, might even have been unlawful - but then said that, at the end of the day, it didn't really matter."

Stephen Marriott, from Glasgow College of Commerce, called on Roger McClure, chief executive of the FE funding council, to make good his pledge, given at an open meeting last October, to mount an investigation into any college which had an adverse tribunal ruling.

The transgression by Mr Duncan is his withdrawal at the eleventh hour from the planned merger of Glasgow College of Commerce with Glasgow College of Building and Printing and Glasgow College of Food Technology. The CLA claims this wasted two years of talks and pound;1 million of public money.

Mr Duncan had already been off the CLA's Christmas card list over the sacking of Jim O'Donovan, a lecturer at the college whose case was given an added frisson by the fact that he is the national president of the CLA. Mr O'Donovan's hearing at an employment tribunal alleging unfair dismissal was due to start this week.

Jim Higney, CLA vice-president, said that the collapse of the merger talks boiled down to "a cat fight between Mr Duncan and Mr (Tom) Wilson (the College of Building and Printing principal) as to the merger model to be adopted and who was to become the city centre college tsar. Mr Duncan didn't get his way, so he withdrew."

Mr Higney said that the episode reinforced continuing concerns over the management of FE. "Every time problems are raised with the Scottish Executive, they say it's a matter for the funding council. When it's raised with the funding council, they say it's a matter for each college board of management. And the boards of management insist they are the stewards of how colleges are run."

Jeff McCracken, CLA secretary at Central College of Commerce, said it was imperative that Jim Wallace, the new Lifelong Learning Minister, intervened. He would be writing to him.

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