Unfair to blame LEA employers

May 24, 1996

Smith, Marcus and Peacock (THES, Letters, May 17) blame the breakdown of talks on terms and conditions for local authority-employed FE staff on the "cynicism" of the employers' side. Their attitude is regrettable.

Local Education Authorities employ some 30,000 people in adult and continuing education. More than 95 per cent are hourly paid teaching staff, while the remainder are mostly full-time organisers and service managers. The Silver Book was devised in the 1970s for full-time teachers in FE colleges and is only appropriate to a few if any LEA employees. Ironically the Silver Book has also been largely abandoned in the sector to which it originally applied. It is essential that formal terms and conditions are related to the work staff are required to do and new structures inevitably dictate change.

Recognising this the employers tabled a new draft framework in autumn 1995. Sadly, instead of entering into serious negotiations Natfhe decided to put this paper to a national ballot with a recommendation to reject. Of the 2,535 ballot papers sent out, fewer than 900 were returned (nearly half from full-time staff).

The employers' side reluctantly concluded that national negotiation would not produce a result in time for the new academic year. A number of LEAs were planning to introduce their own local arrangements in the absence of a satisfactory national agreement and it was therefore felt better to issue advice to support local negotiation within a common framework rather than to allow the national agreement to decay piecemeal.

Graham Lane Councillor Association of Metropolitan Authorities

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