Strike still looms at Sheffield

July 28, 2000

Union leaders renewed threats of industrial action at Sheffield College this week, as dozens of staff received official letters warning them they might lose their jobs, writes Tony Tysome.

Officials of lecturers' union Natfhe are furious that the college issued the jobs-at-risk notices after just four days of consultation with unions over proposals to make up to 180 staff redundant. The college is due to be split into three institutions under a new federal structure.

Relations were further strained as it emerged that some staff had been sent letters telling them their jobs were safe, only to be told later by telephone that the college had made a mistake and they were on the "at risk" list.

Russ Escritt, Natfhe regional official, said the union would run a ballot on industrial action from this week until September if the college continued to attempt to "bulldoze" through redundancies without proper consultation.

He said: "I am appalled that the college sent out these letters only four days into a 90-day consultation period. It has not yet talked with the unions about how people were selected for redundancy.

"It is dreadful that the management sent out these letters to people while they could be away on holiday. The college is trying to frighten people into applying for voluntary redundancy," he said.

The college declined to comment. But this week it announced the appointment of a new chief executive, who will have the job of seeing through the restructuring of the college.

John Taylor, chief executive of Park Lane College in Leeds, will take up the chief executive post at Sheffield from mid-September. He will be expected to address significant weaknesses identified by Further Education Funding Council inspectors, including a Pounds 3.6 million deficit, management problems and a failure by the college so far to meet the educational needs of its community.

College managers told union leaders that job losses are likely because of the restructuring that is needed to put the college back on course.

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