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Union leaders call for Ruskin College to withdraw threats of staff dismissal and drop charges against UCU reps

17 July 2019 | last updated: 24 July 2019

Ten trade union leaders have written to Ruskin College in Oxford to ask them to drop all disciplinary proceedings and withdraw threats of redundancy against staff after the college dismissed a trade union branch officer, with others subject to continuing disciplinary action, and four threatened with redundancy over the summer.

Ten trade union leaders have written to Ruskin College in Oxford to ask them to drop all disciplinary proceedings and withdraw threats of redundancy against staff after the college dismissed a trade union branch officer.

Other staff are subject to continuing disciplinary action, and four are threatened with redundancy over the summer.

UCU branch officer Lee Humber was sacked on Friday 12 July having previously been suspended for "spurious reasons" just days after the local branch passed a motion of no confidence in the principal.

The college wants to axe four more posts in a move that UCU says will kill off all trade union higher education courses at the institution, leaving just a rump of two HE courses overall. The union said the college's proud boasts of transforming people's lives through education and its origins as a workers' college set up to strive for a fairer society meant little if it was prepared to victimise trade union reps and sack staff.

The letter outlines "profound concerns about the way Ruskin College management appears to be victimising trade union reps from the University and College Union" and that "that this course of action is not only wrong in itself, but also risks undermining the founding principles of the institution." 

The union is due to meet with college on Friday and has warned that unless managers step back from their current position over the disciplining of union reps and threatened redundancies, then it will give consideration to calling for a boycott by trade unions of the college.

UCU acting general secretary Paul Cottrell said: 'Ruskin College makes much of its links to the wider union movement and origins as a workers' college, which makes the sacking of union reps all the more offensive. Staff have made it clear they have no faith in the direction the management is heading, but Ruskin's response has been to get rid of people trying to highlight the problems.  

The current spate of redundancies will essentially kill off trade union higher education courses at the college as it lurches from educating and nurturing trade unionists to sacking them.'

*text of letter and full list of signatories

We write to you in our respective capacities as General Secretaries of ten national trade unions, to raise our profound concerns about the way Ruskin College management appears to be victimising trade union reps from the University and College Union (UCU).   

Given the proud history of the College - built on Labour movement values - we are concerned that this course of action is not only wrong in itself, but also risks undermining the founding principles of the institution.  

As we understand it, three reps have been placed under unwarranted disciplinary investigation, whilst a further two union members have been placed at risk of redundancy.   If financial circumstances are difficult, we would expect management to enter into serious discussions to explore a way of resolving the situation.  There can never be an excuse to victimise or harass trade union reps.

We would ask that you drop all disciplinary proceedings and withdraw threats of redundancy and pursue a constructive approach towards working with UCU reps going forward.  Otherwise, we stand ready to give our full support and solidarity to members of Ruskin College staff should they move towards taking industrial action.

Yours,

Ian Lawrence (Chair of TUCG, and General Secretary, NAPO)
Ronnie Draper (General Secretary, BFAWU)
Matt Wrack (General Secretary, FBU)
Michelle Stanistreet (General Secretary, NUJ)
Kevin Courtney (General Secretary, NEU)
Mark Serwotka (General Secretary, PCS)
Steve Gillan (General Secretary, POA)
Mick Cash (General Secretary, RMT)
Dr. Jo Grady (General Secretary, UCU)
Bob Monks (General Secretary, URTU)

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