One of Scotland’s leading training centres for union reps is at risk as a Glasgow college chases “every option” for closing a budget deficit.

City of Glasgow College operates the TUC Education Centre (TUC EC) in partnership with the Trade Union Congress, but the college has said that financial pressures and a dwindling demand for courses on site has cast doubt on whether a new contract will be signed.

Following a recent meeting between the TUC and City of Glasgow College, staff at the TUC EC were informed last week that the college was opening a consultation to determine whether to extend the partnership. 

The current contract expires at the end of June.

The TUC EC provides training for union representatives and members from across Scotland, offering a variety of diploma courses, short courses and trainings, and online courses. A college spokesperson said that the decision is partly based on finances – with the college projecting a £2 million deficit for 2024/25 – and partly due to a decline in demand for courses.

“Currently, the Trade Union Congress Education Centre (TUC EC) is operating at a vastly reduced capacity because of the continued downturn in demand for trade union education.

“Many trade unions are now seeking alternative in-house training for their lay union representatives, rather than sourcing  this training from the College.

“The proposal to not renew the contract with the TUC is subject to consultation, so no final decision has bene taken to close the TUC EC when the current Partnership Agreement with the TUC lapses at the end of this academic year.”

A source close to the college said that when City of Glasgow began operating the TUC EC roughly seven years ago, there were 14 staff. That number is now down to five.

And recent projections estimated that the college would collect approximately £200,000 in gross revenue from TUC EC courses in 2024/25, compared to £400,000 this year.

Representatives from lecturers’ union EIS-FELA have countered the college’s reasoning, saying that the centre provides important training for union representatives nationwide and across a variety of industries.

The loss of the TUC EC as a resource could impact industrial relations at a time when there are ongoing negotiations in many sectors. 

In terms of the college sector, EIS-FELA and support staff unions have been in dispute with college employers for the better part of a decade. EIS-FELA is in the middle of a series of national and local industrial actions, including at City of Glasgow College.

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With staff now subject to severance as one possible outcome of the consultation, a spokesperson for EIS-FELA said that any cuts to the TUC EC could disrupt union activity and apply pressure to ongoing negotiations.

“City of Glasgow College Trade Union Education Centre is of national significance due to its role in the trade union movement in Scotland. 

“There are only two centres delivering accredited TUC training in Scotland, one at Fife college and the other at City of Glasgow College. 

“Fife College does not have the capacity to deliver training for all of Scotland and therefore the closure of the City of Glasgow College centre is a national issue for the trade union movement in Scotland.

“The five Trade Union Education lecturing staff are to be targeted for ‘voluntary severance’ which amounts to making staff compulsory redundant.

“On a local level, the Trade Union Education staff now face the battle to save the Trade Union Education Centre and keep their jobs amid yet another phase of cuts and redundancies in the college.”