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Public service victory as college rejects privatisation

19 April 2007

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Efforts by a private training provider to take over part of the teaching at a midlands college have been emphatically rejected by lecturers.

Private training provider Carter and Carter, which announced record profits this week, had approached West Notts College in Mansfield, offering to set up in the college and transfer construction lecturing staff to the firm's employment.

The college arranged for a presentation to staff by Carter and Carter group chief executive Philip Carter. After learning of union opposition to the transfer of staff Mr Carter stated that the deal could go ahead with present staff remaining in the college's employment, but offered no guarantees for new staff.

Among concerns, lecturers feared for their TPS (Teachers Pension Scheme) pensions as they would not be able to stay in the TPS if employed by a private company. Carter and Carter said they would set up a 'mirror' pension scheme to protect lecturers' pensions. Lecturers were extremely suspicious of this both on cost grounds and having seen what the private sector has done to final salary pension schemes over the last few years.

In one of their largest union meetings in recent years members of UCU at West Notts voted unanimously against the proposal. Some UCU members who had previously worked for Carter and Carter told lecturers how they had left that company for better pay at the college. Lecturers made clear their view that further education should be provided as a public service and not run at a profit for the benefit of shareholders.

College governors rejected any link up after hearing of staff opposition.

During the period of consultation UCU increased its membership, especially in areas of the college's work that might have transferred to Carter and Carter.

Russ Escritt, UCU East Midlands regional official said: 'We are grateful to the principal and governors at West Notts College for consulting staff representatives and genuinely listening. They have heard a clear, united message that professional educators want education to be a public service run in the interest of students, not in the interests of shareholders of a private company.

'The Leitch report on skills has unnecessarily created a welcoming climate for private providers and thereby created uncertainty in the sector - a sector which is anyway outstripping targets and delivering improvements in quality. Private companies are looking at education for easy pickings, promising shareholders handsome returns. That can only be done by worsening pay and conditions and educational quality, whatever the promises.

'There is no case for privatisation and the staff at West Notts college have shown others how to respond.'

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