Sunday, April 06, 2008

My Union Journey

I was extremely saddened to hear of the death of NUT Leader Steve Sinnott; not least because of the human tradgedy of passing away at what is really such a young age. However, I am not surprised to hear that the strike planned for 24th April will go ahead.

The NUT is a union that I'd like to be a member of, but can't quite bring myself to do it. When I first started teaching I joined the ATL because people said it was the union for Tories; because of their no-strike policies. I don't have a no-strike policy - I reserve the right to strike but under extreme circumstances, and I mean "extreme". However my local branch of the ATL seemed totally uninterested in campaigning for the rights and conditions of teachers. They were good at being a union and legal backstop but failed on the proactive stance I wanted.

The NUT is more of the kind of thing I wanted - taking the government firmly and loudly to task for their education failings. I liked the idea of being a thorn in the government's side (whatever the colour). However, when I switched schools and chose to switch unions the NUT was opposing the government's workload agreement. Now, the workload agreement wasn't a great document but made a start in putting the professionalism back into teaching. Hence I joined the NASUWT which I saw as being a halfway house between the extremes of the ATL and NUT. I have since become the union rep. I don't know how much long I'll do that job because I do get the impression it is holding back my career progression but I have enjoyed the work involved.

So why are the NUT striking? Over their demand for a 10% pay increase. Now, I'd be the first in the line for a 10% pay increase but it just is so far away from financial and political reality as to be unbelievable. We all enjoy some "aspirational goals" but shouldn't our unions be drawing the line in the sand over fights we can win?

So I will be supporting any moves to improve our pay and conditions but this strike is just damaging to our pupils welfare. I anticipate a union climbdown before the 24th. At least, I hope so.

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