College chiefs call to simplify sackings

January 29, 1999

Sacking staff should be easier, college leaders have told government.

Figures just released show that more than 3,500 college staff were made redundant last academic year. But the Association of Colleges has argued that staff employment rights are over-bureaucratic and excessive.

The controversial claim comes in a letter from AoC chairman Jim Scrimshaw to Roy Cooper, a civil servant at the Department for Education and Employment. As part of a campaign against government plans to increase accountability in colleges, the AoC is calling for more stream-lined rules on dismissing staff.

The government is consulting on planned changes to colleges' instruments and articles of government. Under current articles of government, staff facing dismissal by a college principal have a right "to make representations", accompanied by a friend, to the principal or anyone appointed to investigate the matter.

If dismissed, they have a right to appeal against the decision to the college corporation. Dismissal will not take effect until the appeal has been determined. For senior staff facing the sack a special governors' committee should examine the case.

But the AoC said: "We believe that the process for the dismissal of staff is over-bureaucratic and should be streamlined ... In particular the right to both make representation and to appeal is excessive in relation to dismissals."

The AoC's comments have angered lecturers' union Natfhe. Dan Taubman, Natfhe's national official for colleges, said: "We totally oppose that and will be saying so." Natfhe is concerned about an increase in industrial tribunals for unfair dismissal. This month, three lecturers - at Doncaster and Southwark colleges - were found to have been unfairly dismissed. "Getting rid of staff should not be made too easy, especially when the government's agenda is about quality and standards," said Mr Taubman.

Catherine Rayner, the AoC's employment law adviser, said that the AoC was committed to fair and appropriate procedures but wanted to make the system more efficient and effective.

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