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EIS rounds on 'anti-union' rebel

An allegation that the Educational Institute of Scotland breached its own rules in dissolving the College Lecturers' Association and merging it with another union has been thrown out by the trade union complaints authority.

And, in a strongly worded letter to college members, Ronnie Smith, the EIS general secretary, accused leading FE left-wingers of using anti-union legislation to waste union resources.

James Higney, a union member at Coatbridge College and a former president of the CLA, had complained to the certification officer for trade unions that the EIS had broken its rules and therefore the 1992 Trade Union and Labour Relations Act by dissolving the CLA, a move which had not been approved by the association or the institute.

Mr Higney also claimed that the 1992 legislation required the CLA to put in writing any move to alter the union's rules, which were necessary to merge the EIS FE membership with the Scottish Further and Higher Education Association. They subseqently combined to form the Further Education Lecturers' Association (FELA).

The certification officer rejected Mr Higney's arguments and said that the reference in the legislation was to the main EIS union, not to the CLA.

The decision led Mr Smith to accuse Mr Higney of "relentlessly" pursuing a complaint against his own union by making use of "the anti-trade union legislation introduced by the Tories in the early 1990s".

In his letter to FELA members, Mr Smith declared: "The EIS has consistently opposed the Tory anti-trade union laws and the state interference in the affairs of independent trade unions which they brought about.

"It is deeply unfortunate, to say the least, that the resources of the union and our members' subscriptions have had to be diverted in defending this unnecessary action brought about by one of our own members."

Mr Smith went on to call for "this unfortunate episode" to be put behind the union which he said was now in a position to resist any college management "divide and rule" tactics since the FELA was established as the only union in the FE sector.

"Some within our union will, as part of a separate agenda, seek to encourage internal division and disunity and this must not be allowed to succeed. The old adage 'unity is strength' could not be more relevant at the present time, particularly as the campaign to return to national bargaining gathers momentum."

Mr Higney is unlikely to be persuaded. The fiery former CLA president has already taken aim at "a small clique of bureaucratic careerists hell-bent on dissolving a self-governing association of the EIS". He believes decisions are taken with little knowledge of what goes on in FE and fears they will dominate the new FELA.

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