Letter: Bribes and grooming

June 15, 2001

Tom Wilson's objective of "raising the status of teaching" is as admirable an aim as his strategy - support for the Institute for Learning and Teaching - is obtuse (Letters, THES , June 8). His confusion over the proper role of a trade union in relation to the interests of its members is as remarkable as is his arithmetical judgement.

The heated debate at Natfhe's conference concerned the appropriateness of a union campaign for a policy that would discriminate, with a bribe, against the large majority of its members who have rejected the ILT. In the event, the delegates voted to accept the proposition. Had four more votes been cast against (0.07 per cent of delegates), it would have been lost. That is hardly a "wide margin".

Wilson is correct, however, in underscoring the importance of this decision. Here in Brighton we are engaged in persuading members not to resign in disgust. We have confirmed that management has no intention of distributing divisive bribes to staff. Were it otherwise, we would be seeking to organise industrial action, with or without official sanction, to oppose such blatant prejudice.

We have also secured agreement that institute membership is voluntary, is a condition neither for promotion nor appointment, and will be treated as no more than one of the ways in which a commitment to teaching quality can be demonstrated.

Indeed, given the generally low regard in which the ILT is held in many parts of this university, we have also agreed with management that efforts should be made to ensure that ILT members are not discriminated against in either promotion or appointment processes.

If Wilson wants to debate the merits of the ILT, he should do so in his academic capacity, not as a trade union officer. As academic staff, we shall listen to him and respond. As trade unionists, we shall defend the rights of members - all of them.

Tom Hickey Chair
Natfhe coordinating committee
University of Brighton

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