National negotiations on further education pay expected to take place today are set to hit a new low because of threats by the leader of the employer's side, Graham Baskerville, principal of Chippenham college, to sack staff who refuse to sign new employment contracts.
The college, which is facing serious financial difficulties, has given an ultimatum to l2 members of staff who are still on the "silver book". If they do not sign new contracts by July 28 they will be sacked.
Fawzi Ibrahim, the vice chair of the industrial relations committee for Natfhe, the university and college lecturers union, and one of the national negotiators says that this will be the first item on the agenda when they meet the College Employers Forum.
"We shall tell the CEF that they are acting in bad faith by forcing people to sign. All that has been said is that those on the silver book would get no salary rise but not that they would be sacked. I cannot imagine what savings can be made by putting them on new contracts." Mr Ibrahim said.
He added that Natfhe had tried to negotiate with the college but their offer of increased productivity without new contracts had been rejected. The union had advised staff to take their cases to industrial tribunal whether they signed or not and had declared a dispute with the college.
But Mr Baskerville said that the meeting between employers and union was about pay and not about contracts. Natfhe was trying to whip up national feeling about a matter which was purely local.
He added: "Ihave the authority of the governors to sack those who refuse to sign."
The college was having some serious difficulties in balancing its budget for l995/96, he continued. They were trying to create savings of about Pounds 390,000 and everyone was being asked to make sacrifices.