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UK: Strike ballot as college tries to sack 500 lecturers, forcing them to re-apply for jobs

Lecturers at Walsall College of Arts and Technology have voted unanimously to be balloted for strike action as their management tries to use a curriculum review to impose worse contracts of employment.

In November, WALCAT lecturers received a letter explaining that due to a curriculum review all 470 teaching staff would have to apply for their own jobs. If successful in being re-employed, the lecturers would have inferior contracts. EI affiliate NATFHE highlighted that there had been no consultation on the review and threatened legal action. As a result, WALCAT management stopped the process, reissued redundancy notification, and reassured the unions that they would consult over the proposed changes. But at three consultation meetings, NATFHE representatives were not given an explanation of the rationale behind the review. On 25 January the college announced that lecturers must reapply for their jobs by February 6, which prompted the NATFHE branch to vote unanimously to ballot for strike action. Chris May, NATFHE regional official in the West Midlands, is angered that after three consultative meetings, the college is still far from contrite over its actions: 'It appears that they continue in the view that the letter sent just before Christmas, in which they announced to 470 people that they were to be dismissed and, if lucky, rehired on a significantly worse contract of employment, was perfectly acceptable. 'Throughout the meetings, NATFHE have pressed for the rationale behind such a dramatic change in the curriculum. Instead of answering our questions, the college management announced that next Monday is the closing date for people to apply for positions and in doing so, accept that they are to be dismissed from their current contract and re-engaged on a different contract. 'This is clearly not acceptable and NATFHE members have responded accordingly by voting unanimously to be balloted on strike action and by authorising the union to explore all possible legal avenues to challenge this situation.'