STRIKING Kirklees College lecturers have not ruled out taking further industrial action.  

Around 70 teachers walked out today and onto the picket line in what union members said was a last resort.  

Representatives of the University and College Union (UCU) have been in dispute with college bosses over compulsory redundancies and changes to contracts they believe will impact on education.  

Strike action followed six weeks of negotiations with Kirklees College bosses.  

David Paine, an adult literacy teacher and union rep, said college bosses were told on Monday that the walk-out could be called off if compromises could be found.   "This was the last resort," David said.

"We didn't want to take action but there is real anger expressed about what management are proposing.  

"I'm overwhelmed by the number we've had there's more than 70 people here and for some of them its the first time they've joined a picket line - that should tell you what the feeling is.  

"Two principals have come down and had a look at us and we hope they'll listen.  

"This college should not be about buildings but good teachers, there's no point in a building if there aren't the teachers inside."

Union officials say that almost 60 staff face pay cuts of between £2,000 and £12,000 a year or detrimental changes to their terms and conditions.    

After voluntary redundancies, six  further jobs are still at risk and students needing extra help will be hardest hit, they say.  

The college has also come under fire for the  one-year delay in the £73m Waterfront Campus, now due to open in September.   

The college is struggling to balance the  books with government funding being slashed and loan interest payments on the new building believed to be set to reach £2m a year.   

Mr Paine said that staff had done their best to provide students with support despite the walk-out.  

And his message to critics of strike action is this: "We regret having to take this action.  

"We've supported the students preparing for exams and will continue to do so to make sure they succeed.  

"But we have to look at the long term we teachers are all in this game for the long run, are the management?  

"We want to continue teaching but as courses are moved from Dewsbury to Huddersfield that will impact on the students.  

"The class sizes will be bigger, which is something well have to cope with.  

"The one-to-one support for some students who really need it might not be there.  

"And the quality of education will suffer, it's good and we want it to continue to be good.  

"We're not unreasonable, we accept there have to be savings made, but its not how they're proposing."

He said they'd considered other options, such as working to rule or a vote of no confidence in managers, adding: "I don't think there is much confidence about.  

"But we had to take the action that the managers will like the least."

Speaking ahead of today's action Peter McCann, principal at Kirklees College said: "We will be open to students as usual. The majority of staff will be attending as normal on Thursday so we must maximise success for our current students and make sure that there is minimal disruption for final year assessments including exams and moderations. We have made every effort to ensure these to go ahead unaffected by the industrial action.
 
"We are also looking forward to meeting a number of new applicants on Thursday for interviews. Our staff will meet and greet these applicants at the entrance to take them to their interview so they should come to college as planned.
 
"While I am disappointed that the strike action is going ahead while discussions are ongoing, I am pleased that the college is able to give students the support they need at this crucial time of year without disruption to them."

The Huddersfield Trade Union Council will hold a meeting on Tuesday, June 25, at Huddersfield Town Hall at 7pm with the speaker  Richard Gray, a UCU rep at Kirklees College.  

All are welcome to attend.