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Be reconciled to the conciliation service

As one of the seven lecturers' union negotiators who heard ACAS's explanation of its conciliation procedures, I can refute Fawzi Ibrahim's attack on the service (Letters, TES, March 10) and categorically state that the ACAS officials were professional and polite.

Mr Fawzi's opinion that ACAS's "ham-fisted intervention and bullying tactics are a disgrace" has no foundation in reality. His view that "the credibility of ACAS is now on the line" is refuted by the 80 per cent success rate which ACAS delivers. Last year's rail-dispute settlement bears testimony to ACAS's abilities. Mr Fawzi's view is not the view of the NATFHE national executive.

NATFHE itself has found the conciliation service to be of great value. In 1990, the national contractual settlement for polytechnics and colleges and the 1994 settlement of the contractual dispute at Bath were achieved with ACAS help. These deals were accepted by the members. Both were achieved in the face of unreasonable employer positions, the former from the Polytechnics and Colleges' Employers' Forum and the latter the local employer using the Colleges' Employers' Forum contract.

NATFHE's south-west region believes that the union should accept the offer of conciliation. There is nothing to lose or to fear by examining the dispute and possible solutions with the assistance of an independent third party. A national contractual settlement is a prize we should do everything to secure.

Finally, Mr Fawzi's bullish statement that there must be no retreat from the principles of the contractual proposals put by NATFHE on December 22, 1993 must be set alongside the fact that he settled the dispute on behalf of the branch at his own College of North West London which went way outside these same proposals. Evidently there is a realist beneath the rhetorician.

TOM JOLLIFFE

Secretary NATFHE south-west region and NEC member

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