Strike action and Valentine's Day protests at Halesowen College
Members of UCU at Halesowen College will take strike action next Thursday (Valentine's Day) as part of their increasingly bitter dispute over the sacking of four maths lecturers.
Despite their being no love lost between the college and the union, UCU will use the day to deliver a giant Valentine's Day card with more than 12,000 (at present) signatures calling for the sacked lecturers to be reinstated. The petition and latest number signatures can be found at http://tinyurl.com/Halesowen4
The row started with the dismissal of maths lecturer and UCU branch chair Dave Muritu days before Christmas. Since then three other maths lecturers (also active union members) have been sacked and lost their appeals. In last week's strike ballot, three-quarters (75%) of UCU members who voted backed the call for strike action.
There has been a march through Halesowen to protest at the sackings and an open day was disrupted to highlight the lecturers' plight. UCU says all four lecturers had good records and it was the college's failings and selective use of information that allowed them to get rid of the staff.
There were no issues related to the lecturers' competence, none had any conduct issues cited in their dismissal and the college admitted there were no individual classroom issues. The staff were all dismissed because their students failed to reach certain attainment levels.
Other complaints the union has made about the college's performance include:
- groups being pushed together, even though they were supposed to be studying different material
- lecturers expected to teach two different classes in two different rooms at the same time
- non-specialist staff regularly covering maths sessions
- refusal to pay for specialist cover (in spite of a huge surplus) for long-term sickness
- failure to provide teaching for students in the run-up to exams
UCU regional official, Nick Varney, said: 'Staff at Halesowen will be on strike next week because of the way the college has dismissed staff. It simply cannot treat people like this and use them to mask its own failings.
'At all the appeals the employer did not have enough evidence against the individuals to dismiss them and used students' failure to achieve certain levels of attainment as the basis for sacking them. Not only is this unfair, but it threatens all lecturers' jobs at the college.
'Traditionally, Valentine's Day cards are supposed to be anonymous, but the thousands of people who have signed our card to the college are keen their names are heard in the fight against these unjust sackings.'