AUT-Natfhe merger

February 6, 1998

The way union members "combine around common aims and interests" is certainly a key ingredient of effectiveness (THES, January 23). Building unity of purpose is a delicate business however and must be based on the real world not sectarian attempts to discredit your partners.

So a few facts first. Natfhe represents the majority of academic and related staff in the new universities and colleges of higher education. Staff here have traditionally been more highly unionised than in the old universities. Our membership has not been affected by the merger of Association of University Teachers with Association of University College Lecturers, a tiny organisation which in over 20 years' existence failed to create a base in the new universities.

Natfhe pressed for and secured an independent review of pay and pay structures. We sustain the national contract we negotiated for academic staff and national rates for part-time staff. We are now recording progress in the joint campaign against casualisation.

We have not focused on demands for pay review bodies or royal charters but respect the right of AUT members to decide their priorities. Indeed we suggested that the AUT might wish to voice their particular view separately in the forthcoming negotiations.

It is relatively simple to ensure sectoral and financial autonomy in a single organisation. Most unions manage this. Indeed Natfhe does this with separate budgets for its universities' and colleges' wings. The real question for union members is how can they get the best services for their subscriptions. A merger between the AUT and Natfhe would provide the optimum use of resources.

Paul Mackney

General secretary, Natfhe

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