UCU members take action at South and City College Birmingham

South and City College, BirminghamUCU members at South and City College Birmingham are today on strike over plans to axe 34 jobs.

The jobs are in various departments including construction, student services, and supported learning – which focuses on students with learning difficulties. The college will also cease to run courses for offenders at Swinfen Hall and Winson Green prisons.

Staff are angry at the college’s proposals to make more staff redundant after 13% of its staff (146 employees) agreed redundancy packages and will leave at the end of the month. Three-quarters (75%) of UCU members who took part in the strike ballot, voted in favour of strike action over the compulsory redundancies.

The government wants to slash 24% from adult education budgets – a move described by UCU as an act of wilful vandalism that would lead to around 400,000 people losing out on opportunities to improve their skills. The union has been part of a cross-sector campaign calling for greater investment in further education which on Friday 26 June delivered a petition with over 42,000 signatures to Downing Street.

MP for Birmingham Perry Barr Khaled Mahmood spoke out about the funding cuts in the House of Commons earlier this month, warning that without additional funding all the talk about manufacturing and engineering recoveries will amount to very little.

He said: ‘It is important for us to provide the right sort of support in areas such as Birmingham and my constituency if we are to move forward and allow people to get back into employment and into apprenticeships.’

UCU regional official Teresa Corr said: “South and City College Birmingham has already lost more than 10% of its staff and we don’t believe it is necessary to axe another 34 jobs. We are talking about potential students with learning difficulties, prisoners and people who need that second chance at education missing out because of these cuts.

“We do not believe that the college has sufficiently explored alternatives to these extra job losses and believe the money could be saved in other ways. Once they are gone, they are gone for good and some of the most disadvantaged areas of Birmingham will suffer for it.”

* Down the road in the West Midlands, staff at the University of Wolverhampton will lobby governors over plans to axe 19 professors by the end of the month.

The union wants the governors to throw out the vice-chancellor’s plans that could see almost a third of the university’s 63 research professors lose their jobs. The departments affected by the plans include computing, engineering, built environment and law.

Local UCU rep Catherine Lamond said: “Professors bring in millions of pounds to the university, as well as being involved in international research projects and teaching. We fear that axing almost a third of research professors will have a hugely negative impact on the university’s reputation and its ability to become a major player in a number of key research areas.

“The vice-chancellor has refused to listen properly to our concerns or consider alternative proposals. We cannot sit by and watch this illegitimate attempt to axe staff go through. We have no option but to appeal to the university’s board of governors – something the union hasn’t had to do since the 70s.”

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Tim Lezard

Campaigning journalist, editor of @Union_NewsUK, NUJ exec member; lover of cricket, football, cycling, theatre and dodgy punk bands

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