A FIVE-YEAR dispute between further education employers and lecturers could near an end after commitments from both sides to try for a national framework on pay, conditions and employment policies, writes Harriet Swain.
Further education unions will meet officials of the Association of Colleges throughout June, aiming to consult on details of a framework document by early autumn.
Paul Mackney, general secretary of the National Association of Teachers in Further and Higher Education, described the decision, made at the first meeting of the national negotiating committee of lecturers and senior lecturers, as a watershed.
He said: "There is a recognition that it is in everyone's interest for the industrial relations dispute to be solved, not least because the government will not be tempted to put its money into a battlefield."
An AoC spokesman said: "We are optimistic about the situation."
The dispute over employment contracts began in 1993, when the Colleges' Employers Forum, now the AoC, ripped up the Silver Book deal on working conditions in favour of a flexible model with no limits on teaching hours. Since then, after several bitter local disputes, about 220 colleges have negotiated contracts with Natfhe.
A joint statement issued by Natfhe, the AoC and the Association of Teachers and Lecturers said: "Both sides recognise the difficulties that have divided the employers and the trade unions in the past but are attempting to look to the future."