Northern Ireland

Colleges NI says 550 higher educations jobs could go due to budget reduction

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Media captionGerry Campbell of Colleges NI said they were looking to develop a proposed voluntary exit scheme

Colleges NI has said the further education colleges it represents could lose up to 550 jobs due to budget cuts.

Earlier this week, Belfast Metropolitan College said it may have to reduce its workforce by more than 100.

Colleges NI is the membership body (umbrella body) for the six further education colleges in Northern Ireland.

The colleges are being forced to cut their budgets by £12m and say the only way they can do that is by reducing staff.

Gerry Campbell of Colleges NI said they were looking to develop a proposed voluntary exit scheme that would operate for 2015/16.

He said the scheme was seeking funding from the Government Restructuring and Reform Initiative (RRI) budget which requires the further education sector to submit a business case for approval.

'Funding approval'

Mr Campbell said the outcome of this process and the level of allocation would not be known until June.

He said that although the scheme was still awaiting funding approval, expressions of interest could be submitted up to Friday 17 April at 12 noon.

"The scheme is necessary to address the significant budget pressures facing the colleges in the context of the agreed 2015-16 Budget," he added.

"It is one of a number of measures being implemented to deliver the required pay-bill reduction. The proposed compensation paid on voluntary exit under the terms of the scheme is one month's gross salary for every full year of continuous service up to a maximum of 21 months.

"We have consulted with all recognised trade unions on the terms of the scheme."

Mr Campbell said the number of staff to be released under the scheme "would be constrained by the number of applicants, the budget available to fund compensation payments and the need to manage the exercise in such a way that colleges can continue to meet their current and future financial commitments".

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