200 jobs set to go as colleges merge

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COLLEGE bosses are looking for more than 200 job cuts as part of merger plans, it emerged today.

Staff at Stevenson, Telford and Jewel & Esk colleges – due to form a new “super college” for Edinburgh later this year – have been invited to apply for voluntary severance.

The colleges say they are hoping around 70 to 75 will go in the first year, with similar numbers in each of the following two years.

Jim Donaldson, chair of the board at Edinburgh’s Telford College and also chair of the merger executive board, said the three colleges together currently employed around 1500 staff.

He said they faced a combined cut of 24 per cent, or £19 million, in their grant from 2010-11 to 2014-15.

He said: “We could not continue as separate organisations with these levels of cuts. We are trying to ensure the least impact on students and the best way to do that is drive efficiencies elsewhere.”

He stressed there was a no compulsory redundancy policy in place until 2014 and the job losses currently being discussed would be voluntary.

He said: “In any merger there is a certain amount of duplication and certain efficiencies we would require to make.

“We need to reduce costs and, as in most organisations, staff is where the bulk of the expenditure goes.”

He said if more than 75 staff took voluntary severance in the first year, the number needed in the following years might be fewer.

Labour claimed the voluntary severance scheme was evidence that staff were being forced to pay for SNP budget cuts with their jobs.

Lothians MSP and shadow minister for learning and skills Neil Findlay said: “This is yet further evidence of the impact the SNP’s cost-cutting college regionalisation agenda is having.

“Hard-working college staff are being forced to pay for the SNP cuts with their jobs, and I fear courses will be cut and local access will be compromised, too.

“These cuts are a direct result of SNP choices and are undermining our chances of economic recovery and risk another wasted generation.”

He said the fact Edinburgh’s colleges faced losing so many experienced staff was of real concern.

“I have spoken to staff at colleges across Edinburgh and I’m hearing morale is at rock bottom.

“Staff are fearful for the future and what the merger is going to mean for their jobs, their terms and conditions.”

Mr Donaldson said fears that employment contracts after the merger would involve inferior conditions were “unfounded”.

He said at the moment the three colleges had different terms and conditions and over the next three years, there would be a move to harmonise these in key areas.

But he said: “As of now, it would be scare-mongering to say they would be employed on poorer conditions.”

A Scottish Government spokesman said: “The merger of Edinburgh’s colleges reduces wasteful duplication and will deliver a better learning experience for students.”

He said a £15m transition fund had been established to help colleges.

iswanson@edinburghnews.com