Richmond College staff strike over "treadmill education"

Picket line: Staff at Richmond College

Picket line: Staff at Richmond College

First published in News Richmond and Twickenham Times: Photograph of the Author by , Reporter

Staff at Richmond College went on strike this week in response to “serious on-going failures at senior management level”.

University and College Unions (UCU) called the one-day strike on Wednesday, March 26, against pay cuts and the workload staff face.

Chris Pegler, union branch chairman, said: “Our college used to be one of the most respected in the whole of the country.

“As far as the staff are concerned it has become an educational treadmill.

“The current management have presided over an inexcusable financial decline which has gathered pace throughout the principal’s stewardship - it can’t simply be blamed on government cuts.

“Some members of senior management have even been rewarded for failure, taking pay rises while proposing pay cuts, job losses and a harsh working regime for ordinary staff.”

The UCU accused the college of carrying out three “demoralising” restructuring exercises in four years, with new layers of management being imposed only to be subsequently jettisoned They claim the college has wasted over £1m “that should have been spent on teaching and learning”.

David Ansell, principal of Richmond College, said: “I am disappointed that the decision was taken by teachers who are members of one of the lecturers’ unions, UCU, to take industrial action this week, especially at a time when regular meetings of representatives of the unions and the management team continue to take place.

“In a time of cuts in public sector funding, we are faced with challenging decisions and the college needs to adapt accordingly.

“We need to strengthen our financial position so that we are able to invest in our buildings and facilities which will benefit our students in the years to come.”

He added that 58 members out of UCU’s total membership of 148 voted in favour of strike action.

UCU branch secretary Steve Grant said: “We hope to get them to move on cuts in pay and workload.

“It used to be a very successful college but poor management has put us in a difficult situation.”

The college opened as usual on Wednesday, with some lessons taking place as usual.

Staff picketed outside the entrance of the Egerton Road site from 7am on Wednesday.

Liberal Democrat spokesman for education Councillor Gareth Roberts said: “I would strongly urge both the unions and the college management, including the incoming principal, to get round the table and sort this problem out.

“I have enormous confidence in the college and a great deal of respect for its academic track record, particularly in regard of its success in delivering the International Baccalaureate.

“I very much hope that a solution can be reached which is mutually acceptable to all parties and which will allow the college to continue providing a highly valued service to young people in this borough and beyond.”

Councillor Paul Hodgins, council cabinet member for schools, said he had no comment to make on the strikes.

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