THE fragile peace between New Labour and the college lecturers' union was shattered this week when NATFHE general secretary Paul Mackney revealed a leaked copy of the note from Labour Party headquarters instructing Labour spokespeople to condemn the union's one-day strike.
Mr Mackney told the union's annual conference in Scarborough: "I am sick of their lies and their breathtaking arrogance. We expected more of the party that 80 per cent of our members voted for."
The memorandum had been sent to several union leaders, but NATFHE was excluded from the list. The instructions, issued on the date of the May 22 one-day strike, read: "Line to take: we believe it is wrong to disrupt students' education at this important time of year." It then instructed party spokesmen to suggest that college lecturers had no legitimate grievance as most lecturers would qualify for increases of up to pound;2,000 by 2003.
"Pay arrangements are a matter for individual colleges. Labour has made specific money available for rewarding good teaching. This year alone, colleges will receive a 12 percent real terms increase in funding. This includes specific resources for pay, which will rise to pound;135 million in 20034, new pay arrangements to improve teacher professionalism and the quality of teaching and learning."
Mr Mackney expressed fury over the phrase "up to pound;2,000". "Most people won't be getting anything like pound;2,000. Ministers have known this strike was coming since January. And they know that discontent has been simmering for years," he said.
The memorandum "contains a number of inaccuracies and misleading statements," he added. It failed to address the 10 per cent pay gap with schools or that only 73 per cent of lecturers got the pay rise last year. The employers' offer of 3 per cent this year compared with 3.7 for teachers widened the gap.
"On the day of our strike, disruption to students was minimal, because we exempted lecturers who were needed for exam purposes, and it was a revision day for most other students." The fact that the Tories would be worse excused nothing, he said.
NATFHE conference, 34 Comment: www.tesfefocus.co.uk