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Ruskin College under fire for trade union victimisation

5 July 2019

Ruskin College in Oxford has been accused of trade union victimisation following a string of disciplinary and redundancy threats directed at UCU members.

Three union reps are facing disciplinary investigations. One of them, Lee Humber, suspended for "spurious reasons" just days after the local branch passed a motion of no confidence in the principal.

The college has said it intends to commence disciplinary investigations into what UCU considers to be the trade union duties and activities of a further two UCU reps. The union said the college should be responding to the issues facing the college, such as financial deficits and course closures, instead of shooting the messengers raising concerns.

The three staff under investigation and another two members of staff - both union members - have now been placed at risk of redundancy. The college wants to axe four of the posts and move the other one on to a fixed-term contract. That would reduce the core higher education teaching team at Ruskin from 12 to eight.

The union said poor management had left the college's finances in a challenging position, but that its managers needed to work with staff to try and resolve the situation, not attack trade unionists. UCU warned that if the college did not step back from pursuing unfounded disciplinary action and threatening to sack its members then it could not rule out strike action. Members are due to meet at an emergency general meeting next week.

UCU acting general secretary Paul Cottrell said: 'Ruskin College's response to challenging financial problems and a lack of confidence from the staff should be to address the issues head on, not shoot the messengers. Staff and students have made it clear they have no faith in the direction the management is heading.

'The college has to step back from these attacks on our members otherwise we will have to step up efforts to resolve this mess and that may well include strike action. Ruskin College boasts of its working class, trade union and social justice history, but in reality our reps are being harassed and victimised.'

Last updated: 16 March 2021