Where are they now?

30th March 2001 at 01:00
After being deposed as NATFHE's general secretary he worked briefly as a railwayman - but now he has found another union role

His claim to fame

The first trade union general secretary to be elected under the Thatcher legislation aimed at preventing dangerous lefties getting a job for life. He was elected as boss of the lecturers' union, NATFHE, with the most impressive majority ever. A militant left-winger, if not the Dave Spart of his day.

Who did he beat?

Peter Dawson: one of the most moderate, mild, some would say, ineffectual of union leaders.

What was his mission?

To defend the Silver Book, the lecturers' bible of conditions of service, against the onslaught of Thatcherite contracts championed by employers' boss Roger Ward at a time of incorporation of colleges.

Was he successful?

Up to a point. Win some, lose some. But members voted him out of office next time aound. "I had the most impressive victory and most humiliating defeat in NATFHE's history," he ruefully recalls.

Did he go back to lecturing?

You must be joking. "During a bitter dispute I'd seen just about every FE principal in England and Wales and told them what I'd thought of their 'slave contracts'. Even if I'd been offered a job, I'd never have lived it down if I'd signed one." P> What about a union job?

"Who wants to employ an ex-general secretary?"Then what?

"A very dodgy period - out of work for four months. I have an amusing folder of rejection letters." A few months as a fundraiser for a youth charity; an information officer for British Rail at Charing Cross "where I was insulted and threatened all day long - quite rightly - by people wanting to know where their train was"; then a trade union liaison officer for Luncheon Vouchers company.

Has he found the right niche now?

Yes. He recruits for the IPMS (Institute of Professionals, Managers and Specialists): "air-traffic controllers to archaeologists". "It's a lovely job. I get paid for being a trade union activist."


1944: born in London 1955-63: Harrow county school for boys 1968-71: Polytechnic of Central London, degree in economic history, a radical student politician 1971-72: Garnett College, FE teacher training 1972-73: Weymouth Tech, taught economic history 1974-89: Southgate Tech, history and liberal studies lecturer, NATFHE activist, president in 1988 1989-94: NATFHE general secretary 1994-97: variety of jobs at: Youth Adventure, Charing Cross station, Luncheon Vouchers Group 1997-: organiser, Institute of Professionals, Managers and Specialists

Diane Spencer

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