Seven-day strike at Hull College called off

Seven days of strikes at Hull College, due to start on Monday, have been called off after the threat of compulsory redundancies was lifted.

Staff had been set to walk out again for five days starting June 18, and again on June 26 and 27 in a bitter row over plans to cut hundreds of jobs.

A joint statement from college management and the University and College Union however confirms that “through best endeavours and joint working” the planned restructure of the college is set to go ahead “without the need for compulsory redundancy”.

“We mutually recognise that the past few years have been very challenging for staff and students at Hull College Group and we share the joint ambition to bring about positive changes to ensure we continue to be vibrant and exciting places to learn and a good place to work,” it said.

“Hull College Group is very sad that we cannot take all our staff with us as we rebuild and refresh and we remain focused on delivering the vital role our colleges play in providing skills and education to our local communities.”

Julie Kelley, UCU regional official, said: “I am pleased that, following positive talks, we have been able to secure an agreement with the college management to work together to avoid compulsory redundancies.

“We will continue to engage constructively with the college with the aim of minimising the impact of the restructure on staff and students.”

Earlier this year Hull College announced plans to slash the equivalent of 231 full-time positions – a move that would cut the workforce by a third, according the union.

The restructure is needed for the college to balance the books.

FE Week reported last month that the college received a £54 million bailout from the government, while the college’s long-delayed 2015/16 accounts, published last week, revealed it generated a deficit of £12.8 million that year.

Union members have already been out on the pickets.

They were joined on May 18 by local MP Emma Hardy, who is also a member of the influential commons education committee.

The bitter dispute began in early March when plans for the job cuts were first announced.

In a statement posted on the college’s website, its chief executive Michelle Swithenbank said the redundancies were part of a restructure being put forward in an effort to balance the books.

The college has held a notice of concern for financial health since November 2016.

A report from the FE commissioner in early 2017 warned that the college’s finances remained “precarious”.

In April, 170 out of 214 – or 70 per cent – of UCU members at the college voted for strike action, before unanimously backing a vote of no-confidence in their boss the following day.