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EIS isn't off the hook over merger

THE final annual conference of the College Lecturers' Association at the weekend heard furious denunciations of the leadership of its parent body, the Educational Institute of Scotland - incandescent even by the standards of the fraught relations between the two.

Delegates are angry at the four-year transitional arrangements which will accompany the merger of the CLA, which has 4,500 members, with the tiny Scottish Further and Higher Education Association, which is said to have around 700 members in FE with another 200 in HE.

The CLA will be replaced by what Malcolm Wilson from Langside College described as "the unfortunately named" FELA - the Further Education Lecturers' Association. Former SFHEA members will be guaranteed half of the seats on its executive, although the union is just a seventh of the size of the CLA.

The SFHEA will also be entitled to half of the branch office-bearers in colleges where each union has more than 20 per cent of the combined membership. The president and vice-president of the combined union will be drawn from the CLA and SFHEA on a rotational basis over the four years.

The backlash on this issue led to the biggest defeat for the leadership at last year's national EIS conference and the divisions will surface again at this week's annual conference in Perth.

Alan Ferguson, an executive member from James Watt College, contrasted the CLA's treatment with that of the EIS's University Lecturers' Association which will absorb the SFHEA members in higher education. The smaller union will get just one seat on the ULA executive proving, according to Mr Ferguson, that "this is purely an exercise about getting rid of the CLA".

Graham Watt of Lauder College said it was "incredible" that SFHEA members are being given the right to vote on the merger this month but the CLA, an allegedly "self-governing" part of the EIS, is being denied a voice on changes to its constitution.

But the revamped arrangements for FE lecturers in the EIS were defended in a speech to delegates by Dugald Mackie, the incoming president of the institute. Mr Mackie said he believed that the amended proposals would meet the objections which were raised at last year's conference.

He said the two bodies, the CLA and ULA, would be unaffected and remain intact with their current entitlement of national office-bearers, independent executives, annual conferences and policy autonomy in FE and HE matters.

The representation of FE members on an enlarged executive council would also be increased.

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