Union accuses Hull College Group of "bizarre" underhand tactics after it permits ice cream van to sell discounted treats during protest

An education union has accused a Yorkshire college group of "bizarre" underhand tactics when it permitted an ice cream van to sell discounted treats on campus during a protest over staff cuts.

Wednesday, 18th April 2018, 4:47 pm
Updated Wednesday, 18th April 2018, 4:51 pm
Hull College in Queens Gardens - with the statue of William Wilberforce - where job cuts are likely.

Staff and students joined a lunchtime protest today against plans to cut 231 full-time equivalent posts across Hull College Group's three campuses in Hull, Goole and Harrogate.

The University and College Union (UCU) said staff had been sent an email saying that those who joined the protest, organised by Hull Trades Council, risked doing so illegally.

A spokesman for UCU said: " Bizarrely, the college then this morning sent staff on the Hull campus an email inviting them to visit a specially-hired ice cream van flogging discounted ice cream and lollies.

"The van was positioned at the opposite end of the campus to the demonstration and there for the duration of the protest."

This morning's email sent by senior leaders at the college, which was shared with The Yorkshire Post, said: "As we are moving into the summer term we wanted to say another thank you for the support and hard work you have all shown over these first few months of 2018.

"So, as the weather is getting warmer, we have agreed a request from an ice cream van to set up outside the Horncastle building today when he will offer everything for just £1!

"We’ll also have music and chairs so you can sit out and enjoy the treat during your lunch.

"The van will be there from 11am until 1pm for students and staff to pop on over."

It comes as members of the UCU at the Hull College Group have today overwhelmingly voted for strike action in the increasingly bitter dispute over plans to axe the hundreds of staff.

UCU said overall 79 per cent of the staff who voted at the college’s three campuses backed strike action, with a turnout of 57 per cent.

Staff will meet today to discuss potential strike dates and to vote on a motion of no-confidence in chief executive, Michelle Swithenbank.

UCU says the plans to axe staff could lead to around a third of the workforce being cut and would mean fewer learning opportunities for local people.

UCU regional official Julie Kelley, said: ‘The overwhelming vote for strike action reflects the strength of anger amongst staff about these job cuts. The proposals would be deeply damaging for the college, its students and the local community.

"Staff feel they now have no option but to take strike action to defend jobs. They have little confidence in a senior management team that either doesn’t understand employment law, or has taken to deliberately misinforming staff to try and bully them out of protesting. UCU members will be discussing a motion of no confidence in the college chief executive tomorrow."

The Government has given the college an "eight-figure" "Fresh Start" grant to allow for the restructure at the college, which had run up a £10m deficit over four years.

In a statement the college said: "As a new management team appointed last summer to secure a sustainable future for Hull College Group, we recognise the trade unions’ right to strike. We can confirm that 378 of our 1,200 staff were entitled to vote in this ballot. Of those, 214 chose to vote with 170 voting for strike action.

"However, industrial action will not resolve the group’s financial and operational issues and we remain committed to an ongoing consultation which seeks to minimise potential job losses and support affected staff.

"We urge our union colleagues to work productively with us through this process and avoid the inevitable disruption the result of this ballot will cause for our current students and ability to recruit new ones.

"We are also aware of a number of planned protests in the city which sadly detract from our students’ achievements and the excellent learning opportunities which continue to be offered at all of our sites."