Sackings protest hits college open day

A Union said up to 100 members protested during a Midland college’s open day as a “last resort” over the sacking of four lecturers.

University and College Union (UCU) members marched through Halesowen, near Birmingham, waving banners and chanting support for David Muritu and three others — all formerly Halesowen College maths lecturers and active UCU members.

The college said they dismissed Mr Muritu, the union’s branch secretary, before Christmas because of his students’ poor results but the UCU claim the former maths lecturer was “treated unfairly” labelling it an “attack” on union workers.

A spokesperson for UCU told FE Week: “Any form of action is always a last resort and not entered into lightly. Such is the college’s behaviour that members felt they had little option but to use the day to highlight the unfair treatment of Dave and the three other union members.

“We would rather the dispute, like any other, can be resolved without the need to resort to these types of action.”

Halesowen College declined to comment on the protest, which happened on January 25 and followed a picket on the same issue earlier in the month. It justified Mr Muritu’s dismissal saying they had provided the lecturer “intensive support” over a period of three years.

“However, David Muritu had failed to make any improvement in student attainment, and indeed the pass rate declined further over the period,” said a Halesowen College spokesperson.

“One student group which he highlighted in support of his case turned out to show that from 14 students 10 failed to pass, with all but one student attainting a pass at least one or two grades lower compared to their grades in other subjects.”

“In addition, over the last three years his AS pass rates were generally some 15 per cent below the average pass rates across the College.”

The UCU dismissed Halesowen College’s justifications claiming only AS results had been used against him with no account of A-level results adding that one action plan had been put in place to support Mr Muritu but this was “abandoned” by management when the lecturer had to cover long-term sickness.

Barry Lovejoy, UCU’s head of FE, spoke at Saturday’s protest. He described Mr Muritu’s sacking as “improper” and claimed Halesowen College seemed “determined to pick fights with UCU at every turn”.

“As every teacher knows, student attainment is affected by many factors besides teaching, such as prior educational experience, home background, the ability and motivation of the students, and the general educational environment and support provided by the college,” he said. “The arbitrary and improper dismissal of teaching staff for the underachievement of students sets a worrying precedent.”

A petition calling for Mr Muritu to be reinstated received 1,100 people. A counter-petition signed by about 150 college staff called for Saturday’s protest not to take place.

Mr Muritu appealed but the decision was upheld at a hearing on January 24. The UCU said Mr Muritu was considering an employment tribunal.