I was greatly saddened by the negative, confrontational and confused tone of the Natfhe responses to the Association of University Teachers' proposals for joint membership (THES, February 23). The allegation that the AUT rejected Natfhe's wish for "modest co-operation" around this year's pay claim is particularly bizarre. In fact, AUT attempted to secure agreement on a single higher education pay claim and on joint pay bargaining.
Regrettably, the attempt foundered on the insistence of Natfhe, representing 18,000 higher education members, that it must outvote AUT, representing 36,000, on the content of the pay claim. In such circumstances, even "modest cooperation" is difficult but we will continue to consult with Natfhe as negotiations progress.
I hope that Natfhe will, in due course, announce a considered response to the AUT proposals. It is in the interests of both associations - and, more importantly of their members - to negotiate a sensible joint membership agreement. This is the best way to avoid divisive battles over membership and recognition with consequent disruption to the hard won "sole bargaining" rights enjoyed locally by each association.
It is the best way to create a period of stability facilitating further progress towards professional and trade union unity in higher education, accompanied by close cooperative links with colleagues in other sectors of education.
ALAN CARR Vice chair, AUT Employment Committee