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Hardline reps drown us out

It's a good job members of Natfhe, the lecturers' union, were given a ballot on the latest pay offer. Otherwise, it seems, their voices would never have been heard above those of their more hardline regional representatives.

Long before the ballot, the fact that members wanted to go for the two-year offer from the Association of Colleges had already been made clear when branches came out 155 in favour and 35 against. By contrast, when the regions sent representatives to a national special conference to discuss the pay offer, they voted against the deal.

But when members were balloted directly, 83 per cent were in favour of the deal rather than more industrial action.

FErret hears there is a growing feeling that, if the union's structures were democratic in the first place, the ballot could have been dispensed with - saving pound;20,000.

National executive committee member and union treasurer Fawzi Ibrahim, in a letter seen by FErret, has written to senior colleagues in protest.

"This is not the first time that the membership, when asked, came out with a different result than the conference that is supposed to represent them."

The answer might be to remove the regions from the policy-making process. But this could only be done at the annual conference - which, again, is made up of regions.

As one insider commented: "It would be like asking turkeys to vote for Christmas."

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