We want to settle over contracts, but not at any cost

10th March 1995 at 00:00
Contrary to the assertion by John Akker, general secretary of NATFHE, "wholesale mistrust of the Colleges' Employers' Forum" is not the reason for the lecturers' union refusing ACAS's offer of conciliation (TES, February 24). The CEF is not more untrustworthy than any other employers' organisation.

It is the slave-owner mentality of the CEF that lies behind the two-year-old dispute and this is the reason for NATFHE to reject conciliation at this stage.

As early as December 22, 1993, NATFHE proposed a contract that introduced increased flexibility while maintaining crucial contractual limits to the working pattern of the lecturers.

This was rejected by an arrogant and irresponsible employers' organisation. The CEF demanded and continues to demand an open-ended contract with no contractual safeguards whatsoever. While our proposals are designed to meet all the demonstrable needs of colleges, financial and academic, theirs are designed to protect and encourage inefficient management practices.

As far as NATFHE's members are concerned, the December 22 proposals which have been embodied in concrete agreements at several colleges are the final package and not a starting point in negotiations.

There can be no retreat from the principles of December 22 and the sooner the CEF realises that, the sooner the dispute can end.

NATFHE is eager and willing to have a national settlement to the dispute, but not at any cost. This is the view of the overwhelming majority of FE lecturers.

As for ACAS. one must hope that this episode has taught that organisation a salutary lesson. Its ham-fisted intervention and bullying tactics are a disgrace. It deserves to be snubbed if only to force it to adopt some sensitivity and humility in its approach. The only surprise is that it has not been snubbed before.

Or is the truth that in all previous ACAS invitations to unions, it made certain in advance that the response would be a positive one?

ACAS's threat to go ahead and "conciliate" between the CEF and the Association of Teachers and Lecturers is farcical. It is like conciliating between identical twins, for the ATL had already accepted the CEF contract.

The credibility of ACAS is now on the line.

FAWZI IBRAHIM National executive member NATFHE 27 Britannia Street London WC1.

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