College lecturers in Birmingham went on strike today at the height of the exam season to voice their anger at proposed cuts to staff and courses.
City College Birmingham campuses across the city were picketed by staff and pupils and a petition was delivered to the Skills Funding Council (SFC) in Bartholomew Row in the face of deep cuts in college spending.
University and Colleges Union (UCU) members voted strongly for the action in response to a possible 78 job cuts and threats to the supported learning division which accommodates students with learning difficulties.
They were supported by students and other staff at the demonstrations before they marched through the city starting at Alpha Tower, Suffolk Street Queensway, and ending at the SFC.
In a separate strike, staff at lecturers at Birmingham Metropolitan College also walked out over proposals to make about 100 staff redundant.
Those on the picket lines predicted similar actions as colleges across the Midlands in the face on public spending cuts.
All colleges will be subject to a 10 per cent funding cut from the Skills Funding Agency next year.
Caroline Gray, a UCU member and teacher for 20 years at City College Birmingham, said the cuts could leave 420 students with disabilities or learning problems without courses in September.
Ms Gray, who will be made redundant on July 31, hit out at the cuts and called on the college to open its accounts in order for another solution to be found.
"This isn’t trimming the fat," she said. "We’ve had cuts every year for the last four years and we’re now half the size we were, there’s nothing left to cut.
"The whole of adult learning and provision for disabled students has been cut. We know there have to be some cuts but it doesn’t have to be done in this way.
"We’re saying to the college, show us the books so we can see if we can manage this in a different way. We’ve been asking for disclosure for three-and-a-half weeks and we’ve seen nothing.
"I’ve worked for the college for 20 years and with one fell swoop they’re taking it all away."
Aasiame Mehboob, 48, has been studying English for two years at the college. She said: "I’m very worried about it. A lot of people want to study English so they can go to the shops, the doctors and find jobs.
"If they cut the teachers it will be very bad."
Anthony Gribben, director of planning and information at City College Birmingham said no cuts were decided yet and consultations with staff and managers would be ongoing.
He said: "We will do everything we can to avoid compulsory redundancies, but cannot at this stage rule out the possibility.
"Redundancies will not primarily be to front line services, with the majority of anticipated losses of posts in management and support functions.
"This process is the subject of ongoing detailed discussions with trade unions, who will be the first to know the detail of any compulsory redundancies. Until all options to mitigate redundancy have been explored we are unable to confirm if we are in that position."
He added the supported learning division could be replaced and that some courses would still run.
Mr Gribben said: "Supported Learning provision is currently affected by reductions in student numbers. The College is still having discussions with funding partners to look at ways to protect or replace provision for our students, and has already been able to confirm that a number of courses will run. Until these discussions have concluded we are unable to confirm the extent of the cuts.
"We acknowledge the cuts will affect some vulnerable people and we share the unions’ concern about this."
He added alternatives were being sought for the supported learning division.