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Executive looks set to soften action

Moves by the union conference of further education lecturers to go to the brink of unlawful strike action over pay and conditions look set to be thrown out by its executive today.

The FE sector conference of the lecturers' union NATFHE last month passed a series of radical motions to restore conditions of service that prevailed when colleges were under local education authority control four years ago.

The policy package includes a Pounds 30-a-week pay rise, Pounds 17,000 starting salary and a maximum 30-hour working week with a ceiling of 21 hours of class contact.

The demands were backed by a call to ballot for a one-day national strike on September 29 and a campaign for wider union backing if sequestration of funds was threatened. But a senior NATFHEsource predicted that the union's national executive committee was preparing to tone down the whole package, "the backlash of which a Labour Government is going to inherit."

Further sources at head office and among union officials said it was not appropriate for the conference to commit the rest of the membership to a risk of industrial law breaking or a loss of their funds. One said: "It was not appropriate or within the powers of the sector conference to take a decision of that kind."

John Akker, NATFHE's general secretary, declined to comment on the status of the conference decisions. But he said that all motions from the higher education and the further education sector conferences would be considered together.

If the sector conference decisions are softened, the executive will increase the rift with the hard left.

A regional official told The TES: "We must turn our attentions to securing guarantees from a Labour government."

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