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Sunderland College lecturers to hold strike ballot over jobs threats

28 June 2007 | last updated: 14 December 2015

UCU members at City of Sunderland College are set to ballot on whether to take strike action in defence of teaching jobs threatened with redundancy.

Lecturers fear the college's standards and reputation are at risk from management plans to lower the qualifications and expertise of teaching staff by replacing qualified professional lecturers with lower graded, cheaper staff. The jobs of 25 staff, including many highly experienced lecturers, may disappear.

Staff are also outraged that the college is planning to cut the highly regarded Supported Learning Team for students with learning difficulties and disabilities. UCU believes the college may not have fulfilled its statutory duty to conduct equality impact assessments to discover the likely impact of such a plan on students with disabilities, or on other groups protected by equality laws. The union will bring this to the attention of the Equality Commissions.

Lecturers are also aggrieved that the college has failed so far to undertake meaningful consultation with the unions. On 14 May, the college informed the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) of 25 posts at risk but failed to officially inform UCU and Unison until 5 June.

Last night the college branch of UCU voted unanimously to ballot members on possible strike action and other forms of industrial action short of a strike. If  lecturers vote for industrial action it will disrupt the start of term at the college in August/September.

The staff also supported a vote of no confidence in the college management because of its failure to provide assurances that redundancies will not be compulsory, and its failure to respond to ideas put by the union, including a freeze on staff recruitment.

UCU branch chair at City of Sunderland College,  Barry Campbell said: 'The management style appears to have changed for the worse. In the past, the college worked with the unions for the benefit of all. But whereas compulsory redundancies were once a last resort (and never actually used), the management now seems to be using them as a first option. Staff feel they are being pushed into a corner and ignored and the unanimous vote for a strike ballot shows how strongly they resent this. We will not stand by and see the quality of teaching here put at risk. Both academic and support staff in the College work extremely hard to provide a high quality service, and local people and local businesses deserve the best.'

UCU national head of equality and employment rights Roger Kline said: 'The supported learning services at the college are a vital service for students with learning difficulties and are nationally recognised as excellent - they received a Grade 1 from inspectors. It is a disgrace that the college should even consider cutting this service and I shall be investigating whether it has followed legally required procedures in its efforts to do so. If it has not, UCU will seek legal action.'