The UCU ballot, which ended on Friday 11 June yielded 68 per cent of members voting for strikes with 86 per cent calling for action short of strikes.
Employees have told MULE that TMC regards non-signing of the new contracts as tacit acceptance of the terms, and have complained of “bullying and intimidation by managers” during negotiations.
UCU general secretary Sally Hunt said: “Our members don’t want to take strike action but have been left with little choice. Staff at Manchester perform a range of duties and teach a variety of people, they do not operate in separate silos. The disarray that will be created by this unworkable two-tier system will leave the college with potential discrimination and dismissal claims and consequently unable to defend itself in the face of likely government funding cuts. Nobody wants this. This situation can still be resolved.”
The decision by Tavernor – who has recently awarded himself and nine other members of the College’s management significant salary increases – to cut off ties with the union which represents the majority of TMC employees was supposedly taken in response to an advert taken out by UCU in the Manchester Evening News.
The principal is said to be thoroughly rattled by resistance among staff, and it is rumoured that even TMC’s management are now questioning his heavy-handed approach.
In his message to staff Tavernor called the advert “a direct and blatant attack on the reputation of The Manchester College” and accused the union of focusing “all attention on attacking the college in an unprofessional way, trying to agitate staff and misrepresent the facts.”
He continues: “Regardless of UCU’s behaviour, we have continued to attempt to engage effectively with the union, but these recent underhand tactics have clearly indicated that it is not going to be possible. I therefore want to let you know that the college is no longer prepared to continue to recognise UCU for the purpose of consultation and negotiation purposes.”
The College however has an extremely poor record with its staff and the management’s reputation in many quarters is one of belligerence and anti-unionism. That is not to mention high-profile investigations into claims of “institutional fraud” within the institution, which refused to go away after the College destroyed crucial documents and gagged would-be witnesses.
Employees this time round say they are being given an ultimatum and threatened with the sack if they refuse to sign. Despite Tavernor’s further statement that “within the core college more than 500 staff have already signed” MULE’s main source says that “many of those feel they have done so under duress and lodged accompanying letters of complaint.”
Hunt responded: “It is deeply regrettable that rather than focusing on a resolution, Manchester College management have chosen to de-recognise UCU, the chosen union of academic staff. I can assure people that our members will continue to seek a solution so that we can carry on providing first-class teaching to learners in Manchester.”
The new contracts are set to come into force on 1 August. The strikes are expected later this month and employees have vowed to continue the fight.