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'Stop the control freaks'

New leader calls for unity to help get rid of meddling government policymakers.

THE NEW leader of the largest lecturers' union has called for a united front against government interference.

In her first annual conference speech, Sally Hunt, general secretary of the University and College Union, told members they must put their differences behind them following the recent leadership battle.

She won the election to become general secretary, beating Roger Kline, who was an official with Natfhe before it merged with the AUT to form the new union.

Mrs Hunt was previously general secretary of the AUT, largely made up of university lecturers. Natfhe was predominantly an FE union but with significant membership in the universities.

Mrs Hunt told the UCU conference in Bournemouth last week that members had to be realistic about what the union could achieve and to work together to reduce what she claimed was excessive government interference in the workings of colleges.

One of its priorities, she said, would be to fight against what she regards as a Government policy of excessive micromanagement combined with insufficient funding.

She said: "There has never been greater government interference in our professional lives. Yet, while the Government wishes to increase its control, it wishes to do so by contributing progressively less from the public purse.

"It intervenes in the curriculum in the name of quality, directs funding towards some and away from others in the name of the so-called skills revolution, chooses to protect some subject areas while throwing others to the wolves. We need to leave the name-calling and political in-fighting behind and move forwards. So I'm asking you all - wherever you cast your vote - to join in accepting shared, collective responsibility for our future together."

Pay remained a crucial issue, Mrs Hunt said, but a new generation of activists wanted the union to do more on other problems, such as poor work-life balance, quality of life and job security.

She warned delegates that they should not expect too much and that the union would not be able to deliver on all 45 of its motions and amendments calling for action in different areas.

"I can stand here and pretend that we can do them all, but the reality is, with limited resources, we will surely end up spread far too thinly," she added. Previous motions which have been passed, but not acted on, include a Natfhe conference decision that the union should boycott the increased flexibility programme, under which under-16s go to college part-time, until lecturers achieve pay parity with school teachers.

Increased flexibility has since been steadily expanding but the pay gap between college and school teachers remains at about 10 per cent.

The overall funding gap is believed to be even wider.

Paul Mackney, formerly general secretary of Natfhe, remains with the union but will also work with the National Institute of Adult Continuing Education where he will campaign for further education. He told delegates he hoped the new Niace role will "continue to keep me in mischief".

Conference report, page 5

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