When staff get their cards from the night rider

20th October 1995 at 01:00
A college which hired a private courier to tell lecturers their jobs were at risk is being highlighted by TV producers in a new series on employment practices.

Couriers are being used increasingly by colleges to deliver bad news, but senior management consultants say it is a practice which should be stopped.

Thank You and Goodbye, to be shown on BBC2 on Tuesday, shows how Mackworth College in Derby got a courier to deliver letters notifying nine lecturers that their jobs were at risk.

The motorcyclist, later dubbed "night rider" by disgruntled staff, rode around with the letters after staff left for home unsure of their futures at the college.

At least one teacher did not discover the bad news until the following day. As English lecturer David Millichap, a deputy curriculum director, had recently moved house, the courier could not find where he lived. "I came back from having a drink and there was nothing at the house, so I assumed that I had escaped," he said. "But the following morning I was handed my letter by the personnel director."

Mackworth college management had previously announced that nine posts must go to save Pounds 250,000. But lecturers were only aware of the curriculum areas where the axe was likely to fall. "The college created a climate of fear and apprehension which was only broken by the 'night rider' visiting people on his motorbike," he added.

The TV programme, the first of a four-part series called Nice Work, shows crude methods used by some employers to tell staff they are being made redundant. "Organisations which are not used to streamlining and getting rid of staff tend to bungle it the most, " said producer Leanne Klein.

Mr Millichap, a former union official, said Mackworth had attempted to consult teachers' unions but had not followed procedures laid down prior to incorporation by Derbyshire County Council.

Mackworth principal Alan Harrison said the college used a courier to inform staff their posts were at risk before they were informed through their union. "Senior management were prepared to go out themselves that evening but we were advised that could be construed as threatening," he said.

He added it was decided not to tell staff while they were at college, because: "If people had a bad reaction, they could have it in their own home."

Mr Millichap, who has still not found a full-time job, said he and others received no career counselling or other guidance from the college.

But Mr Harrison said teachers were told there was money to help with re-training. Seven of the lecturers issued with letters eventually accepted voluntary redundancy, one was offered a new post at the college. The other took early retirement.

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