John Akker, general secretary of the National Association of Teachers in Further and Higher Education (NATFHE), was suspended on full pay after a key sub-committee passed a unanimous motion of noconfidence in him.
Mr Akker, who has led the union for three years, and still has two years of his contract to run, was told he had until last night to accept an offer of early retirement. Yesterday, he was understood to be considering whether to challenge the committee's actions at a tribunal.
The official reason given for Mr Akker's suspension is his alleged failure to complete a report on proposals for restructuring within the union, which has suffered a loss of income as substantial redundancies in colleges have led to a fall in membership to below 75,000.
Privately, Mr Akker has told friends he has been caught between the far Left and reformist wings of his traditionally volatile union.
The Left had hoped he would lead lecturers to victory in a long-running disupte over pay and contracts, while the new Labour faction wanted him to make a deal with college employers.
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