Lecturers who join IFL fees boycott set to be banned from teaching

22nd July 2011 at 01:00
Union promises legal action if those engaged in dispute are kept from classroom

FE lecturers who take part in a proposed boycott of the Institute for Learning (IfL) will be banned from the classroom, it has emerged.

Newly published guidelines state that IfL members who have not renewed their membership by 22 July will have their status changed to "lapsed". As membership is compulsory for FE teachers by law, this will lead to them being prevented from teaching, the IfL has confirmed.

The University and College Union (UCU) is balloting its members on whether to boycott the IfL after rejecting the proposal to introduce pound;38-a-year fees for membership of the institute.

Michael Scott, UCU's national head of legal services and employment law, described the IfL's stance as "wholly unreasonable and irrational".

In a letter to IfL chief Toni Fazaeli, Mr Scott warned that "interfering in the trade dispute by placing pressure on union members" was "potentially unlawful". Mr Scott has since said that the union would take legal action unless the IfL softens its stance.

"In this context, it would be wholly unreasonable and irrational for the IfL to proceed to lapse members who are engaged in the industrial action," he wrote.

"It cannot possibly serve the interests of the sector to place colleges and teachers in the situation where the teacher's employment will be in breach of the regulations."

Mr Scott added that it was unclear whether non-payment amounted to a breach of the IfL's code of professional conduct. If so, he said members "must not be denied" the opportunity to appear before a disciplinary committee to plead their case.

"It must be right that whether non-payment amounts to a breach is a matter of fact to be determined (not assumed). UCU contends that in circumstances where the non- payment is a deliberate act of non-compliance. a member cannot be lapsed against their wishes without being afforded an opportunity to have their case heard," his letter said.

Mr Scott added that, by lapsing membership, the institute would be interfering in a trade dispute. "This interference is itself potentially unlawful," he said.

In June's UCU vote on whether to hold a formal ballot, more than 70 per cent of members rejected the proposal for pound;38-a-year membership fees.

The union said that the 32 per cent turnout was higher than the national votes on pay and pensions, but the IfL said more than a third of its 200,000 members had already renewed their membership.

An IfL spokeswoman said: "Allowing membership to lapse will mean that the teacher or trainer is no longer permitted to teach in the further education sector, where there is the need to comply with the 2007 regulations. This is standard practice in other regulated professions, such as medicine or law."

She added that the institute disagreed with UCU's argument that members who do not pay should be referred to a professional practice committee, as it would have "no jurisdiction in the matter".

Lapsed membership is not a matter dealt with under the institute's code of professional practice, the spokeswoman added.

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