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Royal National College for the Blind 'insulted and degraded' staff

11 July 2008

Teachers at the Royal National College for the Blind (RNC) say they need union protection because of aggressive management at the college.

A departing member of staff, with nine years of dedicated and respected service, was told to clear her desk and be off the premises in an hour. Colleagues were kept away from her as she was escorted off the premises. Her farewell present was later posted to her. She told the BBC's disability programme 'In Touch' this week she was distressed by the experience. Damning testimony can still be heard on the programme's website.

The UCU called the college management's behaviour 'insulting and degrading' and says many teaching staff at the college are frightened to express their views and are fearful of losing their jobs.

UCU has many members amongst teaching staff at the college but the college refuses to recognise the union for consultation and negotiation. The arbitration service ACAS is seeking to resolve this.

The college, whose patrons include HRH Prince Charles and Hereford MP Paul Keetch, instead operates a staff forum which it says satisfies its duties to consult with staff - but many staff are frightened to express views contrary to management plans. Some staff have been chosen for redundancy on poor selection criteria.

The radio testimony is just part of UCU's evidence of a management style at the college which is causing distress and denying staff a proper collective say in restructuring and redundancies.

Students recently protested about unannounced cuts in A' level courses which will oblige them to seek their second year studies at sixth form colleges which may lack special support for blind students. One mature student had his piano tuning course ended half way through his studies.

UCU regional official, Nick Varney, said: 'The treatment of this member of staff was insulting and degrading. Many teachers at the college have felt intimidated by the aggressive style of the college's management and feel the need for the union to be recognised so that they are properly represented and protected. Only an independent trade union can ensure this, not employer organised staff groups, as the recent events at the college confirm.

'RNC may be satisfying its limited legal responsibilities, but in denying departing staff their dignity it has clearly lost any sense of its moral duties.

'There are still remaining concerns about educational and staffing issues but without union recognition, we have  little confidence that the employer will respond to these concerns thoughtfully.'

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