Members of NUT and UCU take strike action over cuts at K College
Members of the NUT and UCU have said the college must immediately halt radical plans that it fears will see hundreds of jobs lost and put three of the college’s Kent sites at risk of being sold off. The union said there is no economical or educational justification for the plans and has demanded the college comes clean with its finances.
The unions say they do not wish to disrupt students’ education, but need to stop work so their members can get to a crucial governors’ meeting on the Tonbridge site. There will be a demonstration at the site from 3pm and staff will lobby the governors as they arrive for their 4.30pm meeting.
The governors will be voting on the radical restructuring plans that could see the loss of hundreds of jobs, in addition to the 57 lost earlier this year. There are also fears the restructure could lead to the sale of the college’s campuses in Folkestone, Ashford and Dover.
UCU said that at a time when student enrolment targets are largely being hit and student success and retention rates are both up by 8% on the previous year, there was simply not the need for such a huge restructure. The latest plans from the college come just two months after a previous reorganisation, which was supposed to secure the college’s long-term viability, saw 50 jobs go.
Staff costs at K College are just 62% of total expenditure – which is below the sector average of 64.3% – and the union said the college needs to answer some serious questions about its financial management. The union wants to know how the college’s deficit position has worsened in recent months and is particularly keen to have more details on the college’s property strategy and its use of consultants and subsidiary companies.
The restructure is at behest of the college’s bank – Barclays – and is focused on deriving short-term financial savings. The union warned that no assessment of the impact the changes will have on courses the college can continue to run or the impact on local communities has been conducted and the long-term damage of quick-fix financial savings must not be overlooked.
UCU regional support official Adam Lincoln said: “The college simply has not made the case for yet another job-axing restructure. There needs to be an immediate halt on any major decisions that affect courses, premises and jobs until there has been a full and transparent assessment of the current state of the college.
“We cannot have potentially irreversible decisions taken without the full facts. Student numbers, retention rates and pass rates are all on the up and staff costs are less than average – there is no economic or educational case for further cuts.
“Strike action is always a last resort, but staff at K College know they have to stand up for their institution before it’s too late. Hopefully today’s action will ensure the governors do not rubberstamp these dangerous plans.”
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