PROTESTS have been planned outside Blackburn College in response to plans to close the trade union health and safety education centre, despite the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

The first protest is planned for 1pm on Wednesday outside the college’s Victoria building with a second to follow on Thursday at a time yet to be announced.

The planned closure was first announced on May 23, along with proposed job cuts, sparking fury among Lancashire’s trades councils.

A spokesman for Blackburn and District Trades Council, which is organising the protest, said: “The centre plays a key safety role for thousands of local workers and trade union members.

“To close it now while working people and their relatives are still dying from workplace exposure to Covid-19 is unjustifiable and totally irresponsible.

“We call on Dr Fazal Dad, the principal, to publicly explain what is behind this reckless decision.”

Trades Union Congress specialists estimate that the centre has trained over 15,000 trade union members and workplace representatives in health and safety, IT and industrial relations skills over the past 38 years.

Closure will also mean the loss of 11 jobs, the fifth round of redundancies in just four years.

The local trades council has been bolstered with the support of the Lancashire Association of Trades CouncilsA spokesperson for the association said: “This is Lancashire’s only TUC-accredited training centre and has served Lancashire workers for nearly 40 years.

“Too many of our members have already died from this virus. The return to work is important but it must be safe, so we need trained safety reps in every workplace.

“For the college to close the only Lancashire centre training these reps is totally irresponsible and we must question the motives behind its decision.” 
However, college leaders say that the closure will not impact on the student experience at the college.

Principal Dr Fazal Dad said: “We are confident that as a result of current proposed efficiencies no student or employer in the region will notice a change in the level of service they receive.

“We face some very difficult decisions over staffing but these reductions in staffing represent only a very small part of the overall workforce.

“The college will do all it can to prevent any compulsory redundancies.”