College staff are balloting for action over redundancies and reorganisation

College staff are balloting for action over redundancies and reorganisation   (Click to enlarge: opens in new window)

A Nottingham UCU member

Unison and UCU further education union branches at newly merged Nottingham college are in dispute with management over redundancy and reorganisation.

The Nottingham college merger, which brought together the two remaining city colleges, was signed off on 8 June, after a ten month delay. Management almost immediately declared that over 160 full-time equivalent teaching and support posts were at risk of redundancy.

Union representatives asked college management to reschedule the hastily planned reorganisation and to consult properly over changes. Instead, management ploughed on through the summer, when most college staff were on leave. Inevitably, the consultation has been badly organised and ineffective.

The unions are particularly angry at management’s refusal to sign a no compulsory redundancy agreement. This seemed to make little sense because 120 new posts were also being advertised.

Despite the difficulties of summer organising, UCU arranged an indicative ballot, with an 87% majority for industrial action.

Further education in Nottingham has a recent history of poor management, which has compounded the problems of sector-wide funding cuts.

One of the merged colleges, New College Nottingham, was almost bankrupted by a recent principal, Amarjit Basi. Basi, a leading light in the Gazelle Group of Colleges, a controversial further education organisation that championed so-called ‘entrepreneurial’ learning, later became principal of Cornwall College.

He left that college after it too went into financial difficulties, with a settlement package that made him the highest paid English principal in 2015-16. Former New College staff are anxious that the new regime might be a repeat of the Basi experience.

We are building a local campaign to challenge both redundancies and the new college vision. As well as balloting for action this includes lobbying local Labour politicians to pressurise the college to pull back on reorganisation, consult meaningfully with the unions, and rethink its impoverished vision for further education.

The campaign will continue as the new academic year begins.