UCU case against IfL has now been ‘discontinued’

Legal proceedings between the University and College Union (UCU) and the Institute for Learning (IfL) have been discontinued.

The move comes after the individual claimant in the case, who is a member of  the UCU, which has been supporting the action, took on a new job in higher education (HE), where membership to the IfL is not required.

However, it is not the end of  the saga, which began in the summer when the union’s members voted to boycott the IfL over plans to introduce a £38-a-year membership fee.

While the IfL has welcomed the news, the UCU say the court action could be resurrected – with the government’s review into regulating and facilitating professionalism of  FE and skills workforce pivotal to future action.

IfL believes in peaceable ways forward, working in partnership with unions and employers, rather than through the courts, in the interests of  teachers and trainers, their learners and our sector as a whole”

The UCU, which announced a suspension of  the legal threat when the review was announced by the government in September, said the discontinuation of  the case took place earlier this month when the claimant’s move to HE was confirmed.

The UCU’s general secretary, Sally Hunt, said: “The prompt for discontinuance was the claimant moving to higher education. If  that had not happened we expect the action would have stayed in the court until the review had been completed.”

Although unaware of  any members’ employment being under threat by not paying the membership, she added: “In the unlikely event a change of  situation occurs we can swiftly reapply using another UCU member working in further education as the claimant.”

Meanwhile, IfL chief  executive, Toni Fazaeli, said: “IfL welcomes the discontinuation of  the High Court proceedings brought against IfL by a University and College Union member with UCU’s support. IfL believes in peaceable ways forward, working in partnership with unions and employers, rather than through the courts, in the interests of  teachers and trainers, their learners and our sector as a whole.”

However, while the UCU has claimed that both sides have acknowledged the issues can still be taken before court, the IfL feels it would be a matter for the court to decide. Meanwhile, a spokesperson for the Department of  Business, Innovation and Skills said the review, which is due to last three months, will soon get underway.

As well as professionalism, the review will also take account of  the “broader context” of  the strategy of  Skills for Sustainable Growth and the belief  that building status of  workforce is “central to building and promoting the reputation” of  the sector.

The spokesperson said: “A preliminary planning meeting for the review took place last week. We will announce the start of  the review and full details shortly. It will be for the independent review itself  to determine who is invited and what other evidence and views need to be gathered.”

Mrs Hunt added: “We anticipate that the review will address the issues in contention. UCU members will not however, pay for any professional body that is not perceived to have added value or bring benefits to its members.”

Mrs Fazaeli added: “We look forward to contributing to the independent review of  professionalism in the further education and skills sector. This review and our work with the Learning and Skills Improvement Service (LSIS) to support an independent commission on adult education and vocational pedagogy will be key priorities for IfL in the coming weeks, as we continue working to promote the status and professional interests of  teachers and trainers.”