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College staff warn of holiday dispute
9:00am Sunday 28th October 2012 in Latest News
Staff at Wiltshire College are warning they could take industrial action if their concerns over a bid to cut holiday entitlement are not heard.
Unions have already passed a motion of no confidence in the college’s management team, because of a perceived lack of communication and poor staff morale.
In July, the college told staff without warning that holiday entitlement was being cut from 37 to 30 days a year and that, on days over Christmas and Easter when the college is closed to students, they will have to come to work.
That decision did not include the management, but the college was later forced into a u-turn. It scrapped most of the holiday cut, except the ruling that staff must work at Christmas and Easter. That now also applies to managers. But staff are still angry at the holiday rule and that they have not been consulted. They also complain that a restructuring programme started last year has still not been completed.
More than 20 staff have lost their jobs at the college bids to close a £2 million funding gap. Norman Crowther, a national official for the Association of Teachers and Lecturers, said staff were frustrated and demoralised. He said: “They feel they are not being listened to over the holidays issue. They feel communication is poor and there is a lack of leadership.
“We are asking them to listen to the concerns of the staff. At meetings I have attended, it is obvious they care and they want to help the college succeed.”
He has written to college governors with the vote of no confidence motion, which was agreed by 92.6 per cent of members from a 62 per cent turnout.
Mr Crowther is also warning that staff may discuss industrial action if they continue to feel they are being ignored.
“If this dispute continues, then there will be discussions,” he said.
The restructuring programme began before Christmas and is being led by vice-principal Andrew Clare.
Staff have complained about a lack of information and vision, saying it has been badly handled and taken too long.
Several staff members in areas, such a human resources, have been asked to apply for new posts and have left within hours of being told they have been unsuccessful in gaining them.
Mr Crowther said: “We are appealing to the management to sit down with staff and give them a clear direction.
“We feel that the management and the governors lack stability.”
Chairman of governors Steve Stone denied he had given principal Di Dale a timescale within which to pacify staff.
He has also dismissed the call for a vote of no confidence in the Wiltshire College management team.
Mr Stone, who is due to step down next year, along with vice-chairman Tim Mason, said: “When an organisation is undergoing a cost-cutting exercise there is always unrest.
“It is not the job of the governors to negotiate with unions. I am confident the management team can sit down and work with the staff.
“They have to accept that we are in a difficult financial situation. The management is doing a good job. I am delighted with the success rates. Of course, that is down to the staff as well.”
He said he and other governors would attend staff briefings in coming weeks.