A Scottish lecturers' union is angry that its parent body has refused to allow potential merger talks with the Association of University Teachers.
Leaders of the University Lecturers' Association, part of the Educational Institute of Scotland, had kept a proposal for talks confidential but have now sent their 1,800 members a document outlining their views. They are also seeking a meeting with EIS general secretary Ronnie Smith, who is arbitrating between the two executives.
Martin Myant, president of the ULA, said: "Our hope is that we can continue as we planned and hold talks with AUT. Overwhelmingly, the members of our executive were very angry at the rejection, and the apparent lack of awareness of the specific problems of higher education."
The document says the ULA's autonomy within the EIS has been gradually eroded by trade union legislation, which means certain decisions are taken by groups dominated by school members, and also by a reorganisation that has reduced and downgraded its sector's administrative staff.
Marian Healy, an administrator at Limerick University, will next month take up the post of EIS officer with responsibility for further and higher education. The assistant secretary level post held by Jack Dale is being axed, and he will take early retirement in December.
While the EIS dominates primary and secondary education, the ULA has become a minority union in higher education following the ending of the binary divide. It warns that there seems to be no prospect of AUT Scotland's 4,700 members transferring to the EIS, particularly as the AUT is now seen by politicians and the media as the dominant staff voice in Scottish higher education.
At present, there are separate pay negotiating bodies for AUT and ULA members, and the document says ULA interests would have to be protected within the AUT, and fought for if necessary. But it adds that it is not evident that these interests can best be protected by remaining separate from the AUT.
The AUT is maintaining its distance from the dispute, and has said it does not wish to poach members from the ULA.