Union strikes in Harrogate over proposed college cuts

Max Beckmann, pictured centre, with striking staff outside Harrogate College
Max Beckmann, pictured centre, with striking staff outside Harrogate College
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Union members  protested outside Harrogate College yesterday in the first of  three days of industrial action to challenge potential job cuts.

Strikes took place across campuses of the Hull College Group and the University and College Union (UCU) picketed in Harrogate, Goole and Hull. Further strikes are also set to be held next Thursday and Friday.

Members last month backed strike action over concerns including the potential loss of 231 jobs across the group.

Max Beckmann, Regional Support Officer for the UCU told the Harrogate Advertiser it was still not too late for talks to be held, but raised concerns over the number of jobs and what the union claimed was lack of communication so far.

She said: “We are here today in order to protect jobs, there are far too many that are at risk. We want to protect the college as a community resource, and we are also keen to make sure that we are able to protect those who remain.”

She added: “The group has failed to manage a consultation and to communicate with the UCU, and we are still trying to get them to engage with us . But it is still not too late.

“There has however been no meaningful communication so far, to share and be transparent. The financial data for the group for instance has not been shared with us.”

The Hull College Group’s consultation on potential job cuts closed last Friday. It formed part of a five-year recovery plan called Fresh Start.

Last year a Further Education Commissioner report revealed the group had a £10 million deficit.

The Group says the FE Commissioner pointed to high staffing costs in relation to income.

In a statement a spokesperson said the strike could negatively impact on both staff and students, and that 170 of an eligible 378 staff had backed industrial action.

The statement said: “This will inevitably have a negative impact on our 18,000 current students and our ability to recruit new ones and this effect should not be underestimated.

“We will do everything we can to minimise the disruption this will cause, including for the majority of our staff who did not vote for this.

“However, we have been forced to postpone a pre-planned major recruitment event due to take place at Hull College on May 9, the same date the UCU selected to hold their first strike.”