Union plays down fears over merger

1st October 2004 at 01:00
Lecturers' union Natfhe has denied that merging with the AUT, the higher education union, would damage the representation of its further education members.

FE lecturers would be in a minority in a single professional association created out of the marriage of the Natfhe and the AUT.

Natfhe currently has almost twice as many FE lecturers as university staff.

Adding the AUT's 49,000 higher education lecturers would mean that only 36 per cent of the merged unions' members would come from FE.

Paul Cotterell, assistant general secretary of the AUT, said that the two unions were still in talks regarding a possible merger in 2006: "We have had initial discussions and published our first joint report. We will soon be making our first joint public announcement, but both committees need to meet first."

A Natfhe source told FE Focus that the proposed merger was "almost certain" to go ahead with developments taking place very rapidly and that the "parity of representation" between FE and HE was now being actively discussed.

Barry Lovejoy, the head of Natfhe's colleges department, emphasised that it is still "early days", but that the progress towards an amalgamation so far was "very positive".

He said: "We recognise the need to safeguard all of the groups in the union. We are very positive that this will bring extra resources to our members, including FE, especially as there is an ever-increasing overlap between HE and FE. All members have got everything to gain."

Jon Bryan, national chair of FE at Natfhe, says that business will go on as usual for FE representatives. He said: "Even if this might have an impact on everyone else's thinking in Natfhe, the FE committee will continue to deal with FE alone and that, fundamentally, won't change.

"It will mean lecturers in HE speak with one voice and the FE committee can only benefit from the AUT's additional experience."

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