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Seven things on union's wish list

The mood was one of defiance as lecturers' union NATFHE held its conference in Scarborough. Francis Beckett reports

The next Labour Government was asked for seven things by NATFHE general secretary Paul Mackney.

First, it should listen to the staff. "They are the ones who have to build up the colleges and the universities, not the funding councils and not business," said Mr Mackney, in his keynote address to the annual conference.

"I am tired of being told to listen to business. The standard of private-sector training - when they can be bothered to do it - is often appalling. The new enterprise-commander principals packed their governing bodies with tired corporals of industry who wouldn't recognise an educational argument if it was spray-painted on their company cars.

"And when things go wrong, they called in the accountants and auditors who , having watched from the hillside, now come down, count the dead, and bayonet the wounded."

Second, it should reverse the policy on grants and fees.

"Britain is a very wealthy country. Every member of the government benefited from free education ad grants. It was wrong to pull up the ladder.

"In 1988 Thatcher reduced the highest rate of income tax from 60 to 40 per cent. A 1 per cent increase would raise pound;810 million - just under the amount needed to restore grants to their 1997 level. A 2 per cent increase would spread them to FE."

Third, the Government should introduce paid educational leave; fourth, restore funding to core services; fifth, respect the workforce by de-casualising; sixth, sweep away employment discrimination and prejudice; and seventh, restore the right to strike in solidarity with others.

"Only slaves cannot withdraw their labour" said Mr Mackney. "We can't go on strike against the Government for failing to provide adequate resources to deal with pay and conditions issues. We are not allowed to strike against the employers' organisations with whom we negotiate because they are not the actual employers.

"We have to register a dispute with every separate employer, any one of whom might seek an injunction because we may have failed to inform them of the effect of the action at their outreach sites and annexes."

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