Contract negotiations reopen with caution

November 11, 1994

Further education employers are set to reopen national negotiations on contracts, but will limit the talks to staff who have refused to transfer to private contracts.

The College Employers Forum has instructed Roger Ward, its chief executive, to explore how Natfhe, the university and college lecturers' union, can be brought back to the negotiating table. This would require the union to change its stance on contractual working hours which the CEF claim made negotiations impossible both in December 1993 and September 1994.

Negotiations would not cover anyone on the management spine -- the CEF claim that 97 per cent of that group are on new contracts -- or lecturing staff who have already signed. The vast majority of corporations want national bargaining and this is acknowledged in the latest CEF bulletin.

"One option the CEF board is reviewing is the need to set out a reasonable deadline for Natfhe to follow in which they are given the opportunity finally to clarify their policy towards local, area, regional or national pay bargaining," writes Mr Ward, "as well as their position on, for example, contracts for new starters, those already signed, evening work, weekly hours, annualised hours and holiday entitlement."

Sue Berryman, Natfhe chief FE negotiator, said that Natfhe had not been approached by Mr Ward and that any proposal for returning to national negotiations would have to be formally made in writing. "This is absolutely necessary because such is the lack of trust on the part of the union. In fact, from now on everything will have to be in writing and formal," she said.

The union negotiators are smarting from continued and past references in CEF bulletins that they have not been doing their job properly and are out of touch with their membership.

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