College staff face jobs axe

By Jonathan BarnesJOBS are set to be axed at an East Anglian agricultural college as bosses attempt to make major financial savings.Staff at Otley College have expressed anger at learning 45 posts could go - especially as the college is currently employing two principals.

By Jonathan Barnes

JOBS are set to be axed at an East Anglian agricultural college as bosses attempt to make major financial savings.

Staff at Otley College have expressed anger at learning 45 posts could go - especially as the college is currently employing two principals.

Principal-designate, Philip Winfield, joined the college, near Ipswich, at the start of April, but retiring principal, John Pearson, will still be in his post until the end of this month.

Mr Winfield said yesterday the changes were necessary for the college to remain viable and added talks were ongoing with staff and trade unions on the job losses.

But Elizabeth Martins, regional official for the National Association for Teachers in Higher Education, said: “We do not appreciate the reasons why college is saying they have to make those cutbacks in order to be viable if they can afford to employ two principals.”

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More than 400 staff are employed at the rural business college, which specialises in vocational courses and has more than 6,000 students.

Mr Winfield said: “The college has communicated to its staff in recent weeks that it needs to restructure various aspects of its operations for it to continue as a viable and independent college in the future, meeting local and national needs.

“Consultations with the recognised trade unions are under way and it is anticipated that any necessary changes may impact on job numbers, though the precise numbers cannot be predicted at this time.

“We, in consultation with the staff and trade unions, will be making every effort to achieve necessary savings through voluntary redundancies.

“We will continue to consider the various ways in which we can support staff that may be affected by any changes.”

A college spokesman said it did not anticipate the changes would have a negative impact on the working lives of its students.

Union officials are set to meet staff and college bosses today to discuss the jobs situation.

Ms Martins said the workforce had been told 45 jobs would go and added: “Obviously, staff are very concerned about the decision to declare the number of redundancies they have without going through the formal due processes in order to try to avoid compulsory losses.

“More importantly, staff who have been there for a long time and provided a very good level of service have been advised that, unilaterally, they are not getting any salary protection when they downsize the college. That is not conducive to trying to maintain good staff morale and motivation.”

Ms Martin said she had never known a college to have such an overlap in the stewardship of two principals - Mr Winfield will have been employed for four months when Mr Pearson retires on July 31.

The agricultural and horticultural college was established at its current site, eight miles north of Ipswich, in 1970.

It specialises in further, higher and vocational education and training, with courses as diverse as conservation, construction and creative studies.

jonathan.barnes@eadt.co.uk

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