Students face series of strikes at college

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A SERIES of strikes could hit students at Sheffield College as they prepare to sit vital end-of-term exams - following on from a one day stoppage by lecturers yesterday.

Sheffield City, Hillsborough and Norton campuses were all affected by the walk-out, organised in protest against plans to make 121 staff redundant - half of them academic posts.

The action was called by the University and College Union after a ballot showed 84 per cent of members who voted backed a strike.

The new threat to jobs follows £3.4 million of cuts last year which saw 96 posts axed.

Union officers say that current funding difficulties in further education are being used as an excuse to make a further round of staffing reductions.

UCU regional officer Julie Kelley said the strike had received plenty of backing from lecturers, though support staff had continued to work.

She added: “We will soon be discussing our next steps - this could well be the start of a series of strikes.

“However, we are aware students are preparing for important exams and we will be doing all we can to make sure that they will not be adversely affected by any actions.”

The college’s proposals will see posts cut from courses in health and social care, maths, IT, business, humanities, media and performing arts.

Classes are also being moved from five of its six community centres which provide classes for English speakers of other languages and adult literacy and numeracy courses.

Miss Kelley added: “The college’s plans are extremely short-sighted and will have a devastating effect on teaching and the local area. Management is making redundant the very people whose job it is to teach students and help vulnerable learners in the community.

“We are not blind to the troubles facing the further education sector. However, we are not willing to stand by while the college does lasting damage to local education provision.”

College chief executive Heather MacDonald said: “We are doing everything we can to minimise the impact of national funding cuts and to avoid compulsory redundancies. However, we cannot give a cast-iron guarantee that there will be no compulsory redundancies.”

Consultations were under way on voluntary redundancies and voluntary reductions in hours, she added.