CUTBACKS are starting to bite at one of Northern Ireland’s biggest further education colleges which has confirmed a third of canteen staff are going as part of a target to slash millions of pounds in wages.
The Northern Regional College said it had the highest wage bill of the six FE colleges in Northern Ireland with staff costs in the 2013/14 financial year a tenth higher than the sector average.
Now they are in the first year of a cost saving plan and a voluntary exit scheme has been set up.
A spokeswoman for the NRC - which has sites in several towns including Ballymena, Ballymoney and Coleraine - said 11 out of 32 canteen staff are confirmed as going.
She said: “Northern Regional College is currently in the first year of implementing a three-year strategic plan in order to ensure financial sustainability and central to that is the fact that the College is required to deliver in the region of £2.5 million saving from its annual paybill.”
In 2013/14, the spokeswoman said, the College’s staff costs were 11% higher than the sector average in Northern Ireland “and the highest of all six FE colleges”.
The Voluntary Exit Scheme (VES) is one way to achieve these savings, she said.
The spokeswoman added: “A Voluntary Exit Scheme was launched across the FE sector in March 2015 when staff were given the opportunity to exit on an entirely voluntary basis.
“A number of canteen staff across the College have elected to take this option and are expected to leave in March 2016.
“Over the next four months, the College will be reviewing its catering provision in order to ensure that there is no disruption to catering services on any campus and that students (and staff) are unaffected by any new arrangements to be put in place.”
Across all the Northern Regional College’s canteens there are 32 employees, a number of whom are employed during term-time only. Of those there are 11 who have chosen to leave voluntarily under the VES (Voluntary Exit Scheme).
Added the spokeswoman: “Currently there is a mixture of in-house and outsourced catering provision at the College. A Value for Money review is being carried out and decision has not yet been made on the most effective business model for the delivery of future catering services.
“The VES is a voluntary scheme across the FE sector. Applications are considered in relation to the business and operational needs of each college.
“The only VES constraints are the budget made available to Department for Employment and Learning (DEL) by Department of Finance and Personnel. The uptake of the scheme has varied across the sector reflecting the different resourcing and financial situations of each College.
“There has been no redundancies in the College since the Voluntary Exit Scheme was launched earlier in 2015. The College will continue to manage operations and work within financial constraints. Moving forward, DEL have confirmed that a redundancy scheme will be available in the FE sector and the annual process of consulting trade unions and identifying areas potentially at risk has commenced.”