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UCU to strike at London college over job cut plans

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Members of the University and College Union (UCU) will take strike action at a London college tomorrow over plans to axe more than 100 jobs and close a campus.

Lewisham Southwark College is planning to cut 112 jobs by the end of this term and close its Camberwell site, blaming government cuts.

The walkout follows a ballot in which 85 per cent of UCU members backed action on a turnout of 50 per cent. However, the college said that those who voted to strike represent just 11 per cent of the total staff body.

The college announced a staff reorganisation in April, following announcements that the government was going to be reducing funding for adult education by 24 per cent. The consultation will conclude at the end of June.

However UCU claimed there had been a “failure” to explore alternative options.

UCU regional official Una O’Brien said: “We believe that by working together, we can find a way out of this crisis and avoid these devastating job losses and the closure of a key community asset that has given many locals a chance to get back into education.

“We want the college governors and managers to meet with us and explore alternatives to this knee-jerk reaction, which will see so many job losses. Of course no one wants to take strike action, but staff have reached the point where they feel they have no other option.”

She warned that unless the college guaranteed no compulsory job losses, more action would be “in the pipeline”.

In a statement, Lewisham Southwark College said it was “disappointed” to learn of the decision at a “key time” of the academic year.

Interim principal Jo Lomax said: “The college would like to emphasise that it will be business as usual, with all scheduled exams taking place. Our staff are dedicated to ensuring that students complete their courses and there will be support in place for anyone who requires it.”

Lewisham Southwark College, which has about 13,600 students on its books across four campuses, came in for strong criticism last year after it emerged that it was scrapping its £300,000 rebrand to call itself LeSoCo, amid concerns it was “ambiguous and not recognisable as a college”.

Yesterday it was revealed that the college had discriminated against a blind employee. An employment tribunal ruled the college had put disability officer Michael Lambert at “substantial disadvantage” to his colleagues by failing to make reasonable adjustments for him.

The college accepted it had been through “substantial changes” in the last year, but said with Chris Bilsland having been appointed as chair of governors in February and new principal Carole Kitching starting work on Monday, it was “turning a corner”.

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