More than 200 college jobs are facing the axe in West Yorkshire in a bid by management at Leeds City College and Bradford College to balance the books in the face of funding cuts.
Leeds is trying to knock nearly £11m from its budget by cutting 146 staff members while Bradford needs to make £8m in savings as it puts 140 jobs at risk.
The University College Union (UCU) branded the cuts “astonishing” and was preparing to ballot for strike action at both colleges.
A spokesperson for Leeds said: “Like colleges all over the country including colleagues in Bradford, we are again facing the impact of government funding cuts for the 2015/16 academic year.” The college, according to the UCU, was planning to get rid of 312 full time jobs in management, business support and teaching and bring in 166 lower-paid roles, resulting in the loss of one-in-four lecturing jobs at the college. The college also planned to close three of its campuses — Morley, Meanwood and St Bartholomew’s.
The Leeds spokesperson added: “The college is working hard to absorb as much of the reductions in income as possible from non-pay budgets but regrettably, it is envisaged that there will be an impact on courses offered, estate portfolio and staffing.
“The college seeks to minimise compulsory redundancies as far as possible, with job losses mitigated through offering enhanced voluntary severance, ensuring redeployment opportunities are maximised, and implementing a managed vacancy freeze as the default position.”
She added that the 33,000-learner college was “extremely disappointed” by the UCU ballot at “a difficult time for staff”.
The job cuts at Leeds, which had a January Skills Funding Agency (SFA) allocation of £42m, follow 100 redundancies in 2014.
A spokesperson for Bradford said the proposed job cuts there would deliver “efficiency savings” while “improving effectiveness and simultaneously delivering growth”. “The college has entered into a consultation process with staff and stakeholders and a voluntary redundancy programme has been made available to staff with the intention of avoiding the need for compulsory redundancies if possible,” she said. Bradford had a January SFA allocation of £17.8m and a student population of 17,840.
UCU regional official Julie Kelley said industrial action was “always a last resort” but strike action could not be ruled out.
“The pace and scale of the job losses at Leeds City College and Bradford College is astonishing,” she said.
“Colleges that are experiencing difficulties need to work with us to try and manage the situation.
“The last thing we can afford is knee-jerk job cuts that leave a lasting legacy on the local community.”
UCU is expected to announce a timetable for ballots in the next few days. In the last month, East Kent (40), Lewisham and Southwark (112), Petroc (no figure announced), Stafford (no figure) and Telford (85) colleges have all warned of job losses, along with Birmingham Metropolitan, where 250 posts were at risk.