From education to employment

Regional Officer for NATFHE on the Lecturers” Conditions and the Next Step

Reacting to the developments involving NATFHE members who were sent dismissal notices by Newcastle College shortly after attending a ceremony with the College Governors commending them for their long and diligent work, the local Regional Officer of NATFHE spoke exclusively with FE News about the situation as it stands.

At the time of dismissals at the end of October, Joyce Harris, NATFHE Regional Support Official, condemned the move, saying: “It is appalling that the Principal has taken this step and issued dismissal notices and it does nothing for the image of the College. The union has already “greylisted” Newcastle College and we are advising our members not to apply for jobs there.

“Whilst the College may say that they have done everything they can to try and resolve the dispute and avoid issuing dismissal notices, the reality is that they haven”t,” she continued. “Our members are clear about the worsening conditions, extra hours and cuts in pay that they face, and this dispute will continue until this is resolved.”

NATFHE Talk of New Contract Terms

Speaking some days after the event, the Regional Officer for the University and College Lecturers” Union (NATFHE) in the Northern Region, Iain Owens, revealed that many of the lecturers who had been sent their dismissals had in fact received in a new contract the same envelope. The new contracts, which most have apparently accepted due to the need of the lecturers to hold their positions, are on what NATFHE describe as significantly different terms.

Mr. Owens stated that the variation in terms fell into three areas. The first was that, unlike the earlier contracts, where the number of hours teaching per week was limited to 24, the new contracts contain no stipulation for the maximum number of hours of teaching each week. This is naturally concerning for NATFHE, who fear that the workload will be increased on any member of staff who has this clause in the contract.

The second alteration, which could go in tandem with the first, is that the working week allowed is now to be 37 hours, rather than the previous case of 35. The third of the changes sees the incremental progression of the lecturers” dependant on their meeting new targets to be set and reviewed. Iain Owens made it clear that these were worrying developments and could potentially adversely affect NATFHE members.

The Next Step

Mr. Owens informed FE News that several of the members of NATFHE who had been presented with the dismissals and then rehired on these terms are currently engaged in an appeals process to achieve a redress of the situation. However, Mr. Owens does not hold out much hope for the success of these proceedings. Should the appeals, as expected, fail, the lecturers then have the option of turning to NATFHE for legal advice in taking the matter forward.

NATFHE have also announced the result of the nation ““ wide ballot of their membership, with 71% in favour of striking over pay complaints. The action will take place on the same day as Minister for Education Ruth Kelly MP addresses the Association of Colleges (AoC) conference in Birmingham, with pickets at every participating college. It is possible that within the furore of this protest, the issues peculiar to Newcastle College will be lost; it will be interesting to see what will happen for the lecturers there.

Jethro Marsh

Tell us what the lecturers should do in the FE Blog

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