HUNDREDS of college lecturers will walk out of classes next month as a dispute escalates over “deeply damaging” plans to cut jobs and courses at a Yorkshire college.
University and College Union (UCU) members at the Hull College Group, which includes around 400 lecturers, will go on strike at sites in the city, Harrogate and Goole, on May 9, 17 and 18.
It is set to be followed by further walk-outs as Unison, which represents mainly support and administrative staff, said a separate ballot for industrial action would open this Thursday.
It comes after protests in Hull and Harrogate over the last fortnight at plans to cut 231 full-time equivalent posts - around a third of staff - across the Group’s three campuses.
UCU said staff - 79 per cent of whom backed strike action in the vote - felt there was “no alternative.”
Regional official Julie Kelley said they wanted the college to halt the cuts and provide a “transparent” review of the decisions behind them.
She said students in Higher Education, who are paying £7,500 in fees and are now faced with 50 per cent cuts in core hours, are voting with their feet.
“In the BA Honours Degree Course in Dance we understand there is only one student returning to do their final year,” she said.
Ms Kelley said they had heard some schools were advising year 11 students that it may be “too risky” to go to Hull College, adding: “That is bad news for Hull College and not good for the longevity of anything.
“This narrative that we haven’t any other way out other than making 231 FTE staff redundant has been so damaging.
“It has been completely counter-productive to the reputation of the college.
“The irony is that staff have been threatened with disciplinary action for bringing the college into disrepute by attending protests, but the governors are not prepared to take similar action when the principal has been much more explicit in her comments to the Press.”
Unison area organiser Paul Swarbrick said staff felt “very let down” and there were examples of job roles which are being cut from four people to one.
“The expectation is that the service will continue and members have said that is impossible, never mind the stress it will cause.
“We have asked again for them to take a second look and basically they are telling us they can’t, they have agreed this bail-out and this is how they are going to get to this place.”
Hull College said: “Hull College Group has made aware of potential dates for action following a ballot which 214 members of the UCU union participated in with 170 voting to strike.
“We are making plans to minimise the disruption this will inevitably cause for our 18,000 learners and the majority of our 1,200 staff who did not vote for this.
“Sadly, any strike will negatively impact our ability to recruit new learners and will not solve the group’s financial and operational issues.
“We therefore urge the union to work with us in the ongoing consultation, carried out by SLT and with the full support of the Corporation, as we aim to secure a sustainable future for our colleges.”
news of industrial action broke as governors announced their “absolute confidence” in embattled chief executive Michelle Swithenbank and senior managers to deliver plans for a “strong, viable, effective College for the future.”
It came four days after members of the UCU union backed a motion calling for the CEO’s immediate resignation.
The Corporation of Hull College Group said they recognised the unprecedented scale of the changes, and wanted to “assure all people affected, that no decision has been taken lightly and we are committed to working with Michelle and the Leadership Team to secure the future of Hull College.”
The Government has given Hull College Group a sum, thought to be £54 million, to allow for the restructure, invest into infrastructure and IT and “strengthen the offer for learners.”
A statement said Ms Swithenbank “had been tasked with delivering an agreed five -year Fresh Start plan created with staff and student input approved by the Corporation and required by our funding bodies.”