IfL fees ballot postponed

8th April 2011 at 01:00

The University and College Union (UCU) has suspended a threat to ballot for a formal boycott of the compulsory fees charged by the Institute for Learning (IfL) for the right to teach in FE.

FE minister John Hayes has brokered crisis talks between unions, employers and the IfL to resolve the row over a fee increase of more than 120 per cent. Mr Hayes had previously defended the IfL's right as an independent body to set its fees, arguing that it had shown him evidence that it had consulted widely on the issue.

But with the UCU telling members it intended to ballot on a proposal for collective refusal to remain IfL members unless employers paid staff fees, he initiated the talks, which began on Wednesday.

The boycott threatened to put the UCU at odds with colleges, several of which had supported staff opposition to the fee increase, because lecturers would have to vote against their employers to trigger a protest.

Union general secretary Sally Hunt told members: "UCU is beginning a formal ballot on a claim against your employer. We are calling on them to pay your IfL fee subscription otherwise we will orchestrate a collective refusal by members to maintain their IfL membership."

She said the union's aim was "to pressure parties to come to the table".

Martin Doel, chief executive of the Association of Colleges, said although members recognised that having a professional body for FE teachers raised the status of staff, opinion was split over fees, with several concerned about the cost to staff.

He said: "There are differences of opinion among our members. We are aware of and sympathetic to the concerns of member colleges who have made strong representations about the IfL fee and the nature of membership."

Five college principals and the head of Hammersmith and Fulham adult education service have written to FE Focus to urge a negotiated agreement to the fees crisis.

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