Bosses at a college in the North East have come under fire from the University and College Union (UCU) for the “cynical” timing — just before the summer holidays — of a job cuts announcement.

The UCU said that 119 staff at County Durham’s Stockton Riverside College were at risk amid plans to make lecturers reapply for their jobs at a much lower wage — up to £10,000 less.

The college said that only 10 jobs would actually be lost, but a greater number of staff were being consulted.

However, UCU regional official Iain Owens said: “This is an unbelievably cynical move by the college. Staff have a right to be treated properly and fairly.

“However, the college took the coward’s approach and hit staff with this devastating news just as they broke up for the summer.”

A college spokesperson said the consultation period had been extended by half, to 45 days, to run until the beginning of September, with the new structure expected in place for 2014/15.

She added: “There will be people that get pay cuts of £1k or £2k but that would be the small minority and they would have their salaries protected for a year.

“The only example I can think of where someone might take a £10k pay cut would be if a top of the scale lecturer going to an assessor’s job but I can’t see that happening in reality.”

College principal Phil Cook (pictured right) said: “At this point in time, we believe the worst case scenario to be 10 staff being made redundant out of a total of 461 college staff — we fully expect this to be less.”

The Tees Valley-based college rose from an Ofsted rating of requires improvement to good following inspection in April.

Mr Owens said: “Our members have worked incredibly hard to ensure the people of Stockton have good quality post-school education.

“Telling staff heading off on holiday that they may not have a job when they return, and if they do they will have a considerable pay cut, is unacceptable.”

Mr Cook said: “I would like say we have been in positive discussions with the UCU and other unions since June in an attempt to reduce the need for compulsory redundancies.”

He added: “There are an additional 14 job opportunities currently available and over the next year staff numbers employed by the college will in fact increase.

“We are disappointed that we need to lose valued staff but it is simply not possible to keep the status quo. We need to have the structures and skillsets in place and importantly to ensure fairness and parity for our staff.

“The situation is not ideal but I am certain that we can deal with the national funding cuts without an impact on the quality of education.”