UCU members at W Midlands college begin boycott of lesson observations as part of campaign to reinstate 4 colleagues they say were unfairly dismissed

Tim Lezard

Halesowen4 Unionbusters placardsUCU members at a high-profile college in the West Midlands are beginning a boycott of lesson observations as part of a campaign to reinstate four colleagues whom they say were unfairly dismissed.

It comes as the “Halesowen 4” are poised to take their cases to employment tribunals after the UCU says it discovered the college had appointed replacement lecturers two months before they were sacked.

Officials say UCU members at Halesowen College will boycott anything to do with lesson observations from next Monday (25 March).

They say the indefinite industrial action is tied to the fact that the lecturers were dismissed “without any regard to their good teaching grades obtained through lesson observations.”

The dispute began with the dismissal of maths lecturer and UCU branch chair Dave Muritu on the day before the college closed for Christmas.

In January three other members of the dapartment, who are also active union members, were sacked. All four have lost subsequent appeals against their dismissal.

UCU regional official, Nick Varney, said: “It is extremely telling that members feel so strongly about the behaviour of college management that they have voted to continue taking action alongside the legal action that has the full support of the national union.

“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 a basis for sacking them.

“Not only is this unfair, but it threatens all lecturers’ jobs at the college.”

UCU says replacement maths lecturers were appointed by the college in October – two months before the existing staff were sacked or had the opportunity to appeal against their dismissals. The new teachers started work on the same day that three of the existing teachers had disciplinary hearings.

Last month UCU members at Halesowen College took part in a Valentine’s Day strike, but were banned from delivering a mock Valentine’s Day card to the principal with thousands of signatures calling for the sacked lecturers’ reinstatement.

More than 12,500 people have now signed the petition.

You can watch our film report on the dispute here:

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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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