“Sack us at will? That’s why Halesowen4 ballot is vital,” says victimised UCU rep

As a ballot opens (Friday 18 January) for industrial action over the sacking of "The Halesowen4", the first of the four, David Muritu writes for UnionNews about the campaign and why the UCU strike ballot is so significant.
by - 18th January 2013, 9.01 BST

David MurituI was stunned to be sacked from my job as a lecturer on 20 December, the day before the college broke up for Christmas.

I have since read and re-read the dismissal letter and yet I am still unsure what I am supposed to have done wrong to warrant being dismissed, let alone with immediate effect.

Certainly the Halesowen College management made clear in the letter that it was not on the grounds of misconduct or poor performance.

Rather, the letter states that I failed to “ensure that students fulfill their potential and achieve their expected levels of attainment” despite the results of my students being above the national benchmark (average) and showing that I have added value.

My dismissal was the culmination of a two-month process that began when, on the first day of my paternity leave, I received a letter calling me to an investigation meeting.

Since my dismissal, three more colleagues and members of the Mathematics team have been sacked. The reasons given were, again, student outcomes.

Over the previous three years my colleagues and I have often taught hours beyond our contractual obligation.

As a result of management’s failure to address long-term staff shortages, and despite the college having a huge financial surplus, A level Mathematics students were left at times to teach themselves.

On occasion GCSE and A level classes were combined in the same room.

This was the environment in which we were expected to improve student’s results.

The online petition currently stands at 12,018 signatures and the response from the wider trades union movement has been fantastic.

What I think is being recognized is that if employers are allowed to flout disciplinary rules and sack staff seemingly at will then there are terrible implications for all of us.

For the fight to continue, the vote for action must be won.