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Andrew Price

NATFHE conference:

Defend the members, safeguard union democracy

(May 2005)

From The Socialist, No. 394, 26 May 2005.
Transcribed by Iain Dalton.
Marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

THIS YEAR’S conference of the lecturers’ union NATFHE takes place at the same time as the continuing employers’ offensive in both further and higher education (FE and HE).

In Wales talks between the employers and trade unions in FE recently broke down as a result of the employers walking from the negotiating table. NATFHE in Wales is a left-led union and the employers were angered at the union’s position on its proposals on part-time teaching staff and the union’s opposition to employer proposals on progression on the new pay scales.

In England, a full two years after a national pay agreement on pay, only 25% of FE colleges have implemented it in full.

In Southampton College the management response is to produce a new contract based on performance-related pay, and threaten members with the sack if they do not sign up to it! In HE similar bullying has been employed in London Metropolitan University.

In Wales NATFHE has given the employers a deadline of 1 August to return to the negotiating table and implement the part-timers’ agreement, otherwise members will be balloted for industrial action from September.

In both FE and HE when our members strike, employers usually deduct pay at more than one day for each day out, with the ridiculous outcome of a NATFHE member being on strike for three weeks actually owing the employer money! Conference motions and emergency motions committing the union to sustentation (strike pay) of £50 per day must be supported.

More than this, Conference must unequivocally support any section of our membership that takes strike action to confront the employers’ offensive. For far too long NATFHE has allowed its members to be picked off college by college and university by university.

Conference must find a way around the obstacles placed by the incorporation (privatisation) of colleges and universities and the anti-union laws to ensure a united struggle against the employers.

Conference will, however, be dominated by an internal issue, the proposed merger with the Association of University Teachers. In principle, nobody can actually oppose the merger or the prospect of one union representing all who teach in post-school education. However, it would seem that some supporters are so intent on merger, at the expense of a proper discussion on the proposed constitution and safeguarding democracy and accountability, that they are not even prepared to have the issue properly aired at this Conference.

Conference must oppose this and support the emergency motions on these matters from Wales, Yorkshire and Humberside and Northern Regions.

Andrew Price was a national executive (NEC) member for FE Wales and a Welsh lay pay negotiator.

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