Willesden and Westminster college merge plans could spark strike action

The College of North West London which is discussing a merger with City of Westminster College.

The College of North West London which is discussing a merger with City of Westminster College. - Credit: Archant

Unions unhappy over proposals for the College of North West London and City of Westminster College

Unions have threatened potential industrial action over a college’s plan to merge with another centre in a desperate attempt to save funds.

The College of North West London (CNWL) has outlined plans to merge with the City of Westminster College (CoW).

But trade unionists, who fear possible redundancies, have called on the governing bodies of both colleges to issue a full consultation and ensure all needs are met before pressing ahead with a decision.

The CNWL currently has two buildings in Wembley and Willesden, and another in Kilburn that is due to be sold, it offers around 250 courses for residents.

CoW is based in Paddington Green, Queens Park and Marylebone and caters for around 7,000 part and full time students each year.

Plans for a merger first surfaced in July last year and college officials said at the time the earliest possible date for completion would be summer 2013.

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But fresh fears have surfaced after a similar proposal in Birmingham was criticised a government minister.

In a letter seen by the Times, Matthew Hancock, parliamentary under secretary of state for business and education, told Stourbridge College and Birmingham Metropolitan he was “not convinced” by their rationale and consultation.

Instead he recommended the colleges conduct an analysis of other options and discuss how it could affect learners and employees.

It also encourages them to carry out a detailed consultation.

Members are now requesting that the same be done over CNWL and CoW’s plans and say strike action could be a possibility if this doesn’t happen.

Sen Kingsland, branch secretary of university and lecturers union told the Times: “Merger of such scale is very serious and has wide ranging implication for the students, staff and the wider community in all respects.

“The trade unions invite the two college governing bodies to carry out a wide ranging open and transparent consultation considering all options before issuing any public notice of dissolution.”

A spokesman for the CNWL said: “We are fully aware of guidance issued by the Department of Business, Innovation and Skills concerning merger proposals and will adhere to all consultation guidelines.

“There would also need to be a rigorous ‘due diligence’ process, conducted by external consultants and overseen by their governing bodies, which include representatives of both students and staff.

“If and when a concrete proposal is made, we will engage in a full consultation process with all stakeholders including students, the community and staff.”