Belfast Telegraph

BMC lecturers may strike over job losses

by Natalie Gorman

Strike action could hit local college campuses as a result of the redundancy measures Belfast Metropolitan College (BMC) has proposed for this year.

University and College Union (UCU), the national body that represents lecturers and college staff has hit out at BMC senior management who have proposed the “job cull” after talks broke down on Tuesday (January 25).

Jim McKeown, UCU regional official said: “In October 2010 the Belfast Metropolitan College produced a "College Improvement Plan" to address a budget deficit of £2.7million. The plan has two aspects to it. Savagely reducing the amount of tuition time to students and making large numbers of staff redundant. The college spin-doctors claimed there would be upwards of 100 staff to go.

“In reality the college proposes to sack 12 senior managers, 82 FTE lecturers, 43 curriculum managers, 31 support staff and 150 agency staff. 93 hourly paid lecturers have already been laid off.

“Over a period of three months, and many hours of talks, the college refused to shift its position. The unions were told the redundancies were necessary to address a budget deficit which was finally stated as being £2.7 million.

“At a meeting on January 25 the talks broke down. The Chief Executive revealed the real reason for so many redundancies was that the "business" could build up an "investment fund" to upgrade buildings for the future.

“The savings arising from the dismissal of the senior managers, lecturers and curriculum managers would total nearly £6.4million per year – those figures were stated by the finance director. There is no need for all those redundancies. Over 220 teachers' jobs and livelihoods and students learning opportunities are being taken from them to fund the chief executive's estates management plans,” continued Mr McKeown.

“UCU believes lecturers have no choice but to resist through non-cooperation and industrial action. The union is organising a ballot for industrial action amongst its members.”

A spokesperson from BMC said a 90 day consultation process with unions would be completed on January 31 and that the college management had made it clear that it would “work tirelessly” to address the issues raised.

“The college improvement plan addresses a range of identified issues which are recorded in the efficiency review and they go beyond the issue of the college’s current financial deficit.

“College management are disappointed by the recent break down in dialogue and communication with the recognised trade unions. Threats of possible industrial action by UCU, as outlined in their recently produced press release, will have an extremely detrimental effect on this core objective of our organisation.”

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