THE Employment White Paper - Fairness at Work - has opened the door for the lecturers' union to take industrial action in colleges. Union officials believe that a little-noticed but crucial omission in the document represents a triumph.
The issue dates goes back to a dispute at Blackpool and Fylde College in February 1994. The courts ruled that NATFHE was obliged to give the management the names of all members whom it intended to ballot for industrial action, and the names of those who would be called out if the ballot were successful, otherwise the ballot would be invalid and the action illegal. This ruling has since prevented industrial action at Accrington and Rossendale and West Cumbria colleges.
NATFHE lost an appeal to the House of Lords and took the case to the European court. The European court turned down the appeal, however NATFHE believes that thanks to the White Paper this ruling no longer matters.
Sue Berryman, NATFHE national negotiator for FE, said: "The Government intends to amend the legislation so that unions will no longer have to give to employers the names of the members they are balloting and the names of the members they will call out. This is a major victory."
NATFHE argued that the provision was unfair and that members who wished to hide their membership from "anti-union managements" should be able to.
The union's annual conference in Eastbourne debated the 40 per cent threshold the White Paper demands for trade union recognition.
It has called on the TUC to call a national demonstration against the proposals. Barry Lovejoy, chair of the FE Sector Committee, told the conference: "NATFHE rejects all restrictions on the legitimate right of trade unions to take action and represent their members."