Unison lambasted the Scottish government today for using college mergers as a cover to force through budget cuts.
SNP Education Secretary Mike Russell (right) said his plans for Scotland's 41 colleges to collaborate more closely will create a more "efficient and responsive" system.
The government hopes the mergers will allow them to reduce spending on colleges by over £34 million without effecting student numbers or standards of education.
But Unison's college leader Chris Greenshields told MSPs today that the reorganisation would mean job losses and fewer students entering education.
Mr Greenshields said: "We have already lost more than 1,300 jobs in Scotland colleges in 18 months alone - before Mr Russell announced that he wanted a further £50m of savings as a result of mergers.
"We cannot continue to cut while the sector deals with the biggest changes in over 20 years.
"We believe this is gambling with our students' future," he added.
Edinburgh College principal Mandy Exley also told the education and culture committee meeting that the pace of change could "undermine this potentialy positive development."
A written submission by Ms Exley, one of four college leaders to address the meeting, explained: "Colleges will have to reduce costs rapidly to remain financially sustainable and there is a risk that opportunities for our students and our communities will be compromised."
A major National Union of Students (NUS) campaign to stop the budget cuts has won the support of MSPs from all of Scottish parliament's opposition parties.
Unison regional organiser Emma Phillips said college staff had been campaigning alongside students to stop what the unions believe are short-term cuts that will result in long-term damage.
In its written submission to tomorrow's committee, Unison stated unequivocally: "College regionalisation is about budget cuts, not improvement."
The NUS will make a last-ditch attempt to detail the government's merger plans at another meeting of the education and culture committee later this month.
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