Union raises fears over ‘savage cuts’ at college

Unions fear almost 100 jobs will be axed at St Helens College
Unions fear almost 100 jobs will be axed at St Helens College

A UNION chief has described the imminent loss of 99 St Helens College jobs as “a devastating blow” for the town’s young people.

Anne McCormack, chair of the Water Street college’s Unison branch, revealed that consultation over the huge wave of redundancies started last Wednesday (February 23) - after the college’s core funding from Westminster was slashed by £4m.

St Helens College's principal Pat Bacon

St Helens College's principal Pat Bacon

The massive jobs blow - set to hit before the start of the next academic year, in September - is understood to include dozens of teachers.

Anne McCormack, a business advisor at the college, says several senior management posts are under threat and 10 out of 30 middle management posts are set to go, with several departments merging, along with a mix of 84 teachers and business staff.

She told the St Helens Reporter: “Sixty redundancies were made at the college last year and now another 99 are set to be made. On top of the abolition of Educational Maintenance Allowance (EMA), which 70 per cent of St Helens students received, this is a devastating blow.

“We’re working hard with management, who have consulted with us fully, but this coalition government is pulling the rug from under our feet. It’s not a case of anyone at the college mismanaging accounts - it’s just a direct result of savage government cuts.

“We don’t know yet which specific posts will be affected but this will have a huge impact on the college, the students and the opportunities available for young people in St Helens. Staff morale is very low and it’s inevitable this will be communicated to students - no matter how hard we try.”

Mrs McCormack says the funding cuts will be exacerbated by the college’s loss of European money, which they used to receive because St Helens was classed as “one of the most deprived areas in the EU”.

A loss of 99 of the college’s 800-strong workforce would mark a 12 per cent reduction from the current staffing level.

College principal Pat Bacon said: “Over the last few months we have been discussing with staff and unions the potential implications of cuts in public sector spending, including the reduction in College funding allocation for 2011/12.

“Although we have considered and acted upon a number of other cost saving options, unfortunately, we also need to consider current staffing costs and savings that may required in this area.

“The College will consult with union representatives about ways to avoid or reduce the number of redundancies, as well as lessen the impact of redundancies.”