Natfhe, the university and college lecturers union, faces a potential shortfall of Pounds l million in its income unless it makes drastic savings through administrative changes and stems the loss in membership which has dropped by 10 per cent in the past two years.
The union, which has already cancelled next year's conference in Plymouth, is in trouble because its Pounds 5-6 million income is dwindling as a result of redundancies in further education, and the cost of strikes in the sector. In addition increased casualisation is shifting its membership from full-timers who pay Pounds 114 a year to part-timers whose fees are only Pounds 24. Membership has dropped from 77,000 to 70,000 and part-timers now account for 22 per cent of the total.
The national executive of the union was expected to meet today to endorse a rescue plan and organise a special conference where members will be asked to vote for a change in the rules. Regional officers were meeting yesterday to give their views.
The plan, which includes a major recruitment drive among the 25,000 or so higher and further education full-time and several thousand part-time staff who do not belong to any union, has been prepared by the organisation and finance committee. It includes halving the executive which has more than 60 members; holding a biennial conference with a limited number of participants as opposed to a yearly event attended by more than 350 delegates; and biennial instead of once yearly elections for NEC members and national officers. All these require a two-thirds majority vote to be put into effect.
The proposals include a reduction in the number of committees, councils and advisory bodies and a trawl for voluntary redundancies. This has already begun with GMB/APEX members.
Ken Thomas, chair of the finance committee, said he hoped the NEC would vote for action because if it waited the crisis could deepen. If resolved earlier there were greater chances of achieving savings.
Fawzi Ibrahim, an NEC member, said that the changes should have been voted at conference in May and would have been if one of the amendments had been more acceptable. Cuts in the executive would make it much more manageable.
Natfhe is the second union with members in education to face financial problems. Last month MSF faced a strike by its officials after announcing plans to shed a quarter of its staff because of a Pounds 720,000 deficit.