One of the few further education colleges not affiliated to the Colleges Employers Forum, Stourbridge in the West Midlands is threatening to sack 20 of its longest serving lecturers on New Year's Eve unless they sign a new "college" employment contract.
Stourbridge, one of the few colleges in the region which has not agreed a Natfhe employment contract, has told the lecturers that unless they sign up by November l0 they will be dismissed by December 31.
A meeting between David Toeman, principal of the colleges and Paul Mackney,the regional officer for Natfhe, the first between the two men, failed to find a resolution, although the college is to put proposals for a way forward at a meeting next month.
David Toeman argues that both CEF and Natfhe contracts are too restrictive. The college wants to work over 52 weeks a year, offering students individualised programmes. He said: "We are moving from a bus to a taxi service and we cannot have people whose contracts stipulate a limited number of hours, although we would not go beyond 2l to 24 contact hours a week.
"So far l33 out of l53 staff have signed the college contract and we had to impose a time limit on the others, although personally I do not want to lose them."
Mr Mackney says the college is the only one in the immediate neighbourhood which has not agreed a Natfhe contract. So far l7 out of the 30 colleges in the West Midlands have done so.
"You have to realise that you have someone who is prepared to deprive 20 people of their livelihood if they don't sign. Even in places which are renowned for being macho, they have not attempted to sack those who have not signed," he said.
The union has filed an industrial tribunal application against the college for failure to comply with legislation on redundancies and is advising the threatened staff to file individual applications, as well as appeal to Stourbridge's governors.
It will hold a secret ballot of all the college staff, who Mr Mackney claims signed their contract under duress and are looking for a negotiated one instead.
A lobby of the college was being held this week.
So far 17 out of the 35 colleges have agreed Natfhe negotiated contracts and there have been breakthroughs in both London and Wales.