Hank Roberts

Education: Unity will turn the tide

Hank Roberts

THE FIGHT FOR GREATER UNITY in the education sector of trade unions has been going on for decades. A mighty breakthrough has at last been achieved.

The National Union of Teachers (NUT) and the Association of Teachers and Lecturers (ATL) at their simultaneously held special conferences in London on November 5th, voted by 97% in both cases to move to a ballot of all their members on whether they agree to amalgamate the two unions. Each executive recommended a Yes in the ballot and this is the most likely outcome. Opinion polls have repeatedly shown a majority in education in favour of uniting the unions. The new union would be the National Education Union, around 500,000 strong and the fourth largest union in the TUC. Its members will include teachers, support staff, lecturers and college managers.

There are presently six main unions in education for teachers – ATL, NUT, NASUWT, NAHT, ASCL and the Welsh speaking UCAC. This will reduce it to five, a significant hIf all the education unions united, a union of around one million would be a mighty force, especially in halting the huge waste of resources in competitive recruitment and the ability of government and employers to divide and rule.The other education unions need to reflect on this, in particular the NASUWT. My challenge to Chris Keates, NASUWT General Secretary, is: you say the majority of your NASUWT members don’t want a single united education union. In that case prove it. Commission an independent opinion poll of your members. If they back your stance you can legitimately continue with NASUWT as a separate union. If they don’t, start informal talks towards building further unity.

The education barbarians are not just at the gates; they are in the stockades. We need to unite to have any chance of saving state education, and building a future education system worthy of our children.

I and others in the cross-union body now called UNIFY have been campaigning for this for 20 years. Spread the word – you can join the struggle by affiliating for only £5 a year – no increase since 1996!

Cost per year are: individual associate member £5, school/college £10, branch or association £30, or you can become a lifetime patron of UNIFY for a one-off payment of £50. Please send your name, address, email and telephone number and union with cheque made out to ‘Unify – One Education Union’ to UNIFY – One Education Union, 27 Ridley Rd, London, NW10 5UB. Telephone: 0208 961 2251 Email: hankr@hotmail.com  

NEU activist in a personal capacity and Brent Central CLP member