A policy paper agreed by the Association of Colleges argues that one teaching union and one support staff union should be recognised by the AOC. The move would simplify national negotiations.
It was interpreted as the first step towards creating a single union for support and teaching staff as the demarcation line between the two becomes increasingly blurred.
The AOC accepts that its proposal would strengthen the arm of the two single unions. The paper says that "the first step should be to nationally recognise one union for lecturing staff and one union for support staff".
It adds: "Currently, given membership numbers the lecturing union would undoubtedly be NATFHE which may not be to the sector's advantage." The support staff would be represented by the public services union Unison.
The briefing document, however, appears to contradict itself over the colleges' response to proposals for new legislation forcing union recognition where it is requested by most staff.
It says the move might be "to the detriment of those unions that have historically been our greatest allies" which it names as the Association of Teachers and Lecturers and the Association of College Management. The paper adds that "this could cause some difficulties for those colleges that have de-recognised trade unions and would effectively remove the threat of de-recognition which is a very powerful employee relations tool at present".
AOC's new policy is to support the legislation, but press for protection for minority unions.