Conference roundup

April 29, 2005

  • A small minority of vociferous opponents has failed to stop the tide of support for a merger between the Association of University Teachers and the lecturers' union Natfhe.

    The AUT council in Eastbourne overwhelmingly agreed to put formal merger plans to a vote of the union's entire membership later in the year, subject to a similar verdict at Natfhe's conference next month.

    The Liverpool AUT branch withdrew motions that would have strengthened the protection of the unique research-based character of universities in the face of a merged union which will be dominated by further education members. The motions would have forced the two unions back into lengthy negotiations.
  • Union activists have struck a resounding blow for a return to national pay bargaining in the face of this year's local pay negotiations.

    Delegates at the AUT conference passed a series of motions condemning the move to local pay bargaining required under last year's new pay framework. The framework allows a great deal of local flexibility on details such as job evaluation.

    In a move that could seriously constrain AUT negotiators in this year's pay talks, delegates defeated the executive and carried a motion from University College London.

    The motion calls on the AUT to "reject the principle that national salary settlements may be negotiated locally and undertakes to ensure that this does not occur again".
  • University governing bodies are made up of hand-picked representatives of a "limited cadre of senior managers" and exist merely to "perpetuate the illusion of the university as a democratic community", the AUT agreed.

    A motion from the AUT's academic-related staff group said that university governance is "systematically flawed, lacking in accountability and credibility, and in urgent need of radical overhaul".

  • The AUT has called on the next government to abolish the research assessment exercise.

    Delegates unanimously carried a motion condemning the RAE for leading to the closure of departments, "discrimin-atory practices" and the undermining of the relationship between teaching and research.

    The motion called for a "comprehensive independent public review of the funding of university research and its effects on teaching", in the light of the "failure of the RAE".

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