Speaking after the announcement that five of the six further education colleges were considering voluntary redundancy procedures, potentially impacting hundreds of workers, Eastwood said the impact would have long-term consequences for Northern Ireland.
“I acknowledge that the current budgetary pressures are untenable, due to the budget set by the Conservative Government, but the consequences of losing hundreds of FE staff could be devastating.”
“FE is essential to our current economic ambitions and future plans and it is central to DfE’s Skills Strategy. We know that without a strong and valued FE sector we won’t be able to deliver a better economy, meet our climate ambitions or create a culture of life-long learning.”
“Colleges and their staff are also essential to community building. They are often a focal point of our towns and cities and provide a means of maintaining and developing social and community cohesion.”
“I have been engaging with colleges, DfE and unions and will continue to do so. I have reiterated that it is imperative that all avenues are explored before redundancies occur and that there continues to be open and constructive engagement with unions.”
“I fear that losing hard-working, talented staff will be short-sighted and cost us dearly in the long run.”
“I strongly believe that the proposed programme of transformation should occur before any staff go and I’m furious that this is occurring when we have no Assembly or Economy Committee in place to scrutinise decisions.”