IfL faces boycott threat over compulsory fees

1st July 2011 at 01:00
UCU will ballot on whether to refuse to renew membership - as required by law

Lecturers will ballot for a boycott of the Institute for Learning (IfL) after rejecting a deal over compulsory membership fees for the professional body.

More than 70 per cent of members of the University and College Union who voted rejected the proposal for pound;38-a-year fees for membership of the organisation for FE teachers, which is required by law.

It means that lecturers in the UCU will ballot on whether to refuse to renew their IfL membership, defying the statutory requirement for all teachers in publicly funded FE to register.

The union said that the 32 per cent turnout was higher even than the national votes on pay and pensions. But the institute said that more than a third of its 200,000 members had already renewed ahead of the deadline in July and that its opponents in UCU were a minority.

Sally Hunt, general secretary of the UCU, said members' opposition was not just about the level of the fee, but whether the IfL was a credible professional body that offered FE teachers any value at all.

She said: "There is little doubt that the failure of college employers to offer any contribution towards the fees was a factor in the ballot result. However, the underlying problem, as my postbag makes clear, is that the IfL organisation is simply not seen as credible by staff. To be effective, a professional body must enjoy the confidence of the majority of practitioners. This is something the IfL in its current form simply does not have."

Many members had contacted her to say that the institute does little to support their professional development and any charge would be too much, she said. Until this year, government had met the cost of compulsory membership.

If the 34,000 UCU members in IfL withheld their fees, the institute would face a pound;1.3 million hole in its pound;6.2 million income, although it has reserves of more than pound;2 million. The Association of Teachers and Lecturers ended its opposition to the IfL's fees after talks last month.

IfL chief executive Toni Fazaeli said: "Nearly a third of IfL members have renewed, and that proportion is growing. IfL sees it as central that we continue to focus on listening to our members and delivering and further developing our services. When members renew, we ask about their ideas for their professional body, and we are listening hard to feedback and suggestions and will respond."

She said members' main concerns were worsening pay, conditions and pensions, the risk to the quality of teaching from a reduction in both teaching and preparation time, and the desire for more and better continuous professional development.

Ms Fazaeli said the institute was trying to influence government and employers to create the conditions in which professional excellence could flourish, and was working with the Learning and Skills Improvement Service to increase its offer of continuing professional development.

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