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Members prepare for future battles
THIS YEAR'S Annual Conference of lecturers' union NATFHE took place at a time of the greatest offensive by the employers and the government against pay and conditions since the Incorporation (privatisation) of Further Education Colleges (FE) and Universities (HE).
Andrew Price, NATFHE national executive, personal capacity
Conference acclaimed the struggles of our members against management bullying in Newcastle and Southampton FE colleges and in London Metropolitan University. Conference condemned the failure of around 75% of English FE colleges to implement a national pay deal nearly two years after its agreement. We also passed a motion that refused to absolve the leadership of NATFHE of some of the responsibility for this appalling situation.
Conference enthusiastically endorsed general secretary Paul Mackney's call for a national strike in the autumn in support of the English FE pay claim. In an excellent debate on pensions, conference unanimously passed a motion from Wales arguing that New Labour will return to the offensive against public-sector workers' pensions, but this time around must be met by strike action by the relevant unions on the same day.
Most of the second day of the conference was taken up with the debate over the proposed merger with the Association of University Teachers (AUT). Sensibly the leadership dropped its previous policy of forbidding any debate on the proposed sixth draft of the constitution of the new union and backed Emergency Resolution 15.1 from Wales calling for a full discussion and vote on proposals to amend the constitution.
After the passing of the motion conference engaged in a constructive debate. But proposals to include all aspects of current democracy in the new constitution were defeated, despite attracting substantial minority votes.
NATFHE and AUT members will now be balloted in the Autumn, opening up the prospect of a larger more powerful union. If properly led, this could confront and defeat all who wish to extend market forces to post-school education.