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Lecturers split over arbitration

Moderate lecturers will be arguing at a meeting tomorrow for their union to overturn its decision not to meet with ACAS, the conciliation and arbitration service, over the two-year-old contracts dispute in further education.

The national executive of NATFHE, the lecturers' union, this week voted not to take part in the conciliation meetings which the Association of Teachers and Lecturers has been calling for. Jefny Ashcroft, a member of the executive, said the positions of NATFHE and the Colleges' Employers' Forum were too far apart at present to make a meeting with ACAS useful.

This is the first time that a TUC-affiliated union has refused the services of ACAS. John Akker, NATFHE general secretary, had strongly argued for his union to take part in the process but was overruled by the executive, which is dominated by members of the Socialist Lecturers Association.

Talks between NATFHE and the CEF broke down on February 8 over weekly teaching hour limits. The union has planned a week of nationally co-ordinated action in colleges from March 6.

John Akker said: "The decision by NATFHE's executive reflects the wholesale mistrust of the Colleges' Employers' Forum and of its chief executive Roger Ward. The half-truths told, the avowed intent to smash NATFHE and the total lack of any educational rationale for the proposals made on lecturers' contracts have led to this."

But at a FE sectoral meeting in London tomorrow, Tom Jolliffe, executive member, will be arguing that the union should be obliged to take every step necessary to seek an end to the dispute. He said there were groups on the executive who were taking an ideological stand and who did not represent the membership as a whole. He said: "The employers would prefer to come to an agreement and I believe it is possible to reach one."

Peter Latham, chair of the lecturers' and senior lecturers' negotiating committee, has resigned over the issue.

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