Unhealthy to merge

January 30, 1998

The merger of the Association of University and College Lecturers into the Association of University Teachers is a success because both unions had very similar policies and were financially healthy. That is not the case as regards Natfhe and AUT, and a single union that you discussed (THES, January 23) would be unstable.

Natfhe opposes a pay review body, which is why it is missing from the pay claim submitted by the Lecturers Common Interest Group despite the widespread support for it by staff in the new universities. Natfhe is losing members and plans staff redundancies to ameliorate financial problems. AUT grew 7 per cent in the year before the AUCL merger and is now booming in both the old and new universities.

Natfhe has been torn apart by the infighting of political extreme groups which are mostly based in further education. I have attended Natfhe's executive and conference. AUT is not perfect, but it is effective and rational in comparison. Why should AUT members sacrifice a solvent and sane organisation to merge with a bear garden?

The only viable outcome of a merger between AUT and Natfhe would be an immediate split into a higher education union and a further education union, each with complete political and financial independence. The research ethos and the intellectual level of the teaching make a distinction between HE and FE which should be recognised organisationally. The strength of a union is not determined by the number of its officials, but by the way its members combine around common aims and interests.

Paul Hudson, Queen's University of Belfast

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