Natfhe gears up for strike on contracts

October 2, 1998

Strike action in further education colleges looked imminent this week as branches of university and college lecturers' union Natfhe voted overwhelmingly against accepting a draft deal with employers on contracts.

Natfhe's executive will meet today to consider results of the ballot, in which ten of the union's 13 branches voted to reject the agreement.

Two branches abstained and Northern Ireland, which has its own agreement, was not balloted.

Most agreed to support strikes aimed at achieving a more favourable settlement. Talks will take place at the union's further education sector conference meeting in London tomorrow.

The decisive vote could mean the conference will decide that individual members should be balloted directly on strike action.

Difficulties with the deal, designed to end a five-year dispute since the old Silver Book agreement was scrapped, focus on limits to teaching hours ranging from 800 to 880 hours per year and 22 and hours per week.

Paul Mackney, Natfhe general secretary, said the deal was supposed to encompass existing local settlements but branches did not trust employers to resist going for the upper limit.

A spokeswoman for the Association of Colleges said: "Our members have given a quiet acceptance to the agreement, although obviously there is a spectrum."

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