Academic unions are alive and still kicking

September 29, 1995

Far from fading away and being in need of funeral rites (THES, September 15) academic unions and collective bargaining are alive and kicking in the new universities - nee English Polytechnics and Colleges Funding Council sector.

My research, covering the post-incorporation state of collective bargaining in 22 PCFC institutions and an additional three in-depth case studies, clearly shows that agreements and institutions supporting collective negotiations are in place at the majority of the institutions. It is also clear that these are used regularly at an institutional level at least twice per term and the scope of issues covered is virtually unlimited, with more than 60 discrete areas being identified in the case studies alone.

Much of this formal bargaining is supplemented with almost weekly informal bargaining with members of the institutions' management - the very personnel officers whose meeting was covered in your report. Perhaps they are shy of admitting this.

Senior management in the case studies with personnel responsibility were supportive of collective bargaining as an integral part of employee relations and communications. Certainly the impact of collective bargaining on general policy was less than that relating directly to employee relations, but an input was made.

How far do personnel officers have an impact on policy? Staff associations are not needed, collective bargaining still provides a strong basis for negotiating the very co-operation that the Universities Personnel Association considered so desirable.

Len Arthur

Cardiff Institute of Higher Education

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