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Strains of incorporation

FUNDING cuts and increased competition are the main concerns of college staff five years after incorporation, according to a survey commissioned by a lecturers' union.

A Keele University researcher questioned NATFHE branch secretaries, chief executive officers and personnel heads about pay and terms and conditions. The responses suggested "a system under serious strain", said the report. "The FE sector has probably been placed under more pressure than any other sector, particularly in terms of its system of industrial relations."

Both personnel heads and CEOs put the problems of competition and duplication of resources as the main problems after funding. They used phrases such as "cut throat", "naked" and "spurious business ethic".

More than half the branch secretaries said there had been an increase in the use of disciplinary procedures, but only 14 per cent of personnel respondents agreed. The terms "bullying" or "harassment" appeared on 8 per cent of the union responses but did not appear at all in those of personnel heads. "Stress" appeared in about 7 per cent of both sets of replies.

The survey asked if trade unions were seen as being helpful in pay determination. Some 46 per cent of CEOs answered "yes" compared to 66 per cent of heads of personnel. About 12 per cent of the CEOs added a comment which was "generally to the effect that there was no real objection to trade unions, simply to the behaviour of the ones they were having to deal with - predominantly NATFHE. Comments suggested a degree of frustration and exasperation at what they saw as a refusal to accept responsibilities associated with declining funding."

Ngaio Crequer

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