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From The Socialist newspaper, 25 March 2009

Wales: United battle needed to stop college cuts

Monday morning and the staff of our college gather to hear the principal explain that management will be seeking to identify £800,000 of savings by the end of the academic year (July).

Ronnie Job, Unison steward, Gorseinon college, personal capacity

Meetings like this are taking place in colleges across Wales because the Plaid/Labour coalition in the Welsh Assembly has slashed funding to further education.

The sector as a whole will see an absolute fall in its funding of 1% but this represents over 7.4% less than colleges had planned and budgeted for to meet the needs of increased student numbers.

What is particularly frightening is that these cuts come when the cash the Assembly receives from Westminster has increased by 4.3%. What will happen the following year, after Gordon Brown cuts billions from public sector spending, including the allocation for the Assembly, in the UK budget?

After the initial stunning effect, a mood to fight is developing in the colleges. Neath/Port Talbot college trade unionists held a lunchtime protest recently and separate meetings of UCU and Unison have organised together a similar action in our college for 25 March. College gate rallies will also be taking place in Swansea college and Coleg Sir Gār.

These need to be linked into an all-Wales campaign, including a mass lobby of the Assembly buildings in Cardiff involving students and their families.

The underfunding of education by the Labour/Plaid politicians in Cardiff may be the immediate cause of this crisis but college trade union members have absolutely no confidence in our own college management to either oppose these cuts or to protect our jobs and prevent compulsory redundancies.

In a meeting with union reps, our Principal said that no college management can tell the Assembly they can't make these cuts because the 22/23 colleges in Wales are separate corporations, each competing for a shrinking pool of students and a shrinking funding pot. So they go on making the cuts... and we lose our jobs and education suffers.

We need to commit our unions to opposing all compulsory redundancies because it is clear that there is absolutely nothing left to cut.

Every job lost from non-teaching staff will result in a poorer service to students and will increase the administrative burden on teaching staff.

Making teaching staff redundant means cutting provision, which will just be storing up problems for the future because it will result in reduced funding.

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