Union approves ballot after college sacking

The Educational Institute of Scotland has upped the stakes significantly in its war of words with some colleges over alleged management "victimisation" of union branch officials.

The EIS finance and general purposes committee gave the go-ahead for a strike ballot last week in its dispute with Central College of Commerce in Glasgow over the sacking of Jim O'Donovan, the former branch secretary at the college. The union, whose 120-strong membership represents 95 per cent of the college's academic staff, will stage a demonstration in Glasgow on November 2.

It is also to begin a national campaign to defend Mr O'Donovan, who was dismissed with effect from July 18 for alleged bullying and harassment of Charles Boyce, the college's student services co-ordinator who also represents support staff on the board of management.

Mr O'Donovan strongly denies the charges but his position as national president of the College Lecturers' Association, the EIS's FE section, has given the case added prominence. He says he plans to fight his dismissal at an employment tribunal.

The union is so concerned at what it sees as increasingly frequent action by college managements against its officials that it has contacted Iain Gray, the Lifelong Learning Minister. It has denounced what it sees as similar moves at Motherwell and West Lothian colleges, and claims many lecturers across Scotland work in a "climate of fear". The EIS will repeat its demand that Mr Gray intervene and initiate a full inquiry into the management of FE colleges.

But in a statement to The TESS, Peter Duncan, principal of Central College of Commerce, said: "I'm surprised by the action being taken by the EIS in connection with a case of bullying and harassment at this college.

"To suggest that the case constitutes action against trade unions implies that any person who holds local office is beyond the normal disciplinary processes to which every employee is subject. This case has nothing to do with the person's role in a trade union.

"It is understandable that staff wish to support a colleague who has been dismissed, particularly when the college has not released all details of the case."

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