Union power switch to ease merger talks

27th May 2005 at 01:00
Radical changes are planned by leaders of the lecturers' union Natfhe to put more control over strikes in the hands of members.

The power of regional councils to influence industrial action at conference would be curtailed. The responsibility for selecting delegates would switch to branches if plans, backed by the union executive, are approved by in Eastbourne this weekend.

The Association of University Teachers demanded the reform as a condition of the proposed merger of the two associations in 2007. Paul Mackney, Natfhe's general secretary, said this was a small price to pay for the creation of a 115,000-member union for all further and higher education.

He said: "We need this merger. We are both facing the same problems over pay and conditions and we are increasingly working on common ground."

Even without the merger plan, he said similar measures would need to be considered. He said: "No other union does things Natfhe's way. If you look at the National Union of Teachers, they don't send people from regional conferences but from local areas, as near to the local education authority employer as possible."

He expects pockets of resistance to the merger package. "There will be a proposal to defer merger," he said. "But when people consider that we have to be battle-ready, can we really continue to discuss whether this resolution is the one to go for or not?"

Last year, Natfhe voted unanimously to negotiate merger terms - a proposal that has been around since 1989.

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