Union threatens strike action after college sacked lecturer for writing ‘racist’ on Prevent poster

The University and College Union has warned its members will strike at Sandwell College if a lecturer, who was sacked for writing “racist” on a poster promoting the Prevent strategy, is not reinstated.

Dave Muritu was dismissed last week despite admitting to drawing on the poster and apologising for his actions, according to the UCU.

The college claimed his actions constituted gross misconduct on the grounds of “serious damage to college property”, “bringing the college into disrepute” and “use of inappropriate language” with the consequence of summary dismissal.

The college has lost all sense of proportion

The UCU has since launched a petition calling on the college to reinstate Muritu. At the time of going to press, the petition had 643 signatories.

It also warned it would take industrial action if Muritu is not reinstated.

Last year, the college and its staff agreed on a new “sector-leading” pay deal – amounting to more than six per cent over three years, avoiding a three-day strike.

UCU pointed out that Muritu is the union’s local branch secretary, and played a key role in negotiating the landmark pay deal for staff last May.

The maths teacher is also the former chair of the UCU black members standing committee.

Paul Cottrell, UCU acting general secretary, said: “The college has lost all sense of proportion in dealing with Muritu’s case. The incident was clearly a moment of frustration for which he has apologised, but the college has refused to budge from its hardline position.

“The college has acknowledged that his actions didn’t bring the college into disrepute, so it seems this incident is being used as an excuse to attack Muritu for his trade union activities.

“We will not simply stand by and allow this to happen, and the college should be prepared to face industrial action if the decision is not swiftly reversed.”

A spokesperson for Sandwell College said: “Safeguarding is of paramount importance to everybody at Sandwell College and we expect everybody to act professionally, ensuring that we adhere to our statutory duties whilst creating the best possible environment for all of our students and staff to thrive.

“Although we do not share details of internal HR matters, it is important to note that we recently conducted a thorough investigation into a serious disciplinary matter which resulted in the decision being made to terminate the employment of a member of staff.”

She added: “They, of course, have the right to appeal and therefore it would not be right for us to say any more at this time. The college has been notified that UCU wish to enter into a dispute with the college following the dismissal of the staff member. The college does not accept and refutes UCU comments.

“The college has taken necessary steps to minimise the impact of any action and will continue to operate as normal.”

The Prevent duty, which promotes “British values”, requires FE providers to put policies in place to stop potential radicalisation of learners and exposure to extremism.

But the programme has also received criticism, with Rania Hafez, Programme leader for MA education at the University of Greenwich writing for FE Week in 2017, that the “crude imposition of Prevent in colleges has created a with-us-or-against-us mentality, running roughshod over the British value of tolerance”.

In January this year, security minister Ben Wallace, announced an independent review into the strategy.