Hundreds of protesters turned out in Belfast to demonstrate against job cuts at Northern Ireland’s biggest further education college.
Angry lecturers and students warned that proposed redundancies at Belfast Metropolitan College have left staff feeling “demoralised” and put the future of the college at risk.
Up to 450 jobs are set to be lost — including 39 full-time lecturers and 12 senior managers — as part of a plan to address a £2.7m budget deficit.
Trade unions said yesterday’s protest marked the start of an official dispute with college management, with plans to hold a ballot for industrial action before the end of the month.
University and College Union regional officer Jim McKeown said the proposals to cut lecturers’ jobs were “crazy”.
“Our members are very angry about this — we just don’t believe there is any need for all the redundancies,” he said.
“This so called improvement plan won’t improve BMC. It may make it more efficient but it will be at the expense of the students’ education.”
The protest marked the end of a 90-day consultation with BMC officials as trade union representatives met the governing body for the first time.
Director Marie-Therese McGivern refused to comment, saying she would issue a statement to staff and students later today.
Paddy Mackel, west Belfast representative of Nipsa, said it was frustrating BMC officials refused to listen to union staff.
“It’s absolutely scandalous to say someone must lose their job so the college can have money in the bank,” he said.
Students waving placards gathered outside BMC’s Millfield campus to show their support for the lecturers.