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Alternative to Union?

Discussion in 'Scotland - education news' started by MilkyBar Kid, Sep 8, 2018.

  1. MilkyBar Kid

    MilkyBar Kid Occasional commenter

    My father was a Communist and ardent trade unionist, so I grew up knowing full well the power of collective bargaining and solidarity to preserve terms and conditions. He would refuse to cross the picket line of anyone out on strike (those were the days when secondary picketing was legal, so if the tea-lady went on strike he would support her). Were he alive today he would turn in his grave at the abject state of most unions and in terms of the EIS a few expletives would colour his language. COSLA and the SG are laughing at the teaching unions because they know that they will never opt for industrial action so they basically will take what they are given. 10 reasons for 10% is a standing joke, more like 10 years for 10% and the unions will tell us " we tried our best".
    Now I know what most people will say at any attempt to criticise our union leaders ... "you are the union", it's not the fault of the union leadership if they push for strike action and the membership fail to back it (fearing losing a day's wages).
    So what's the point of paying my £12 a month to a union where there is no underlying belief in the collective, of solidarity. Yes I know I get a nice wee diary and the occasional magazine, but is that it?
    What are the alternatives? Industrial insurance for legal representation? Would that be enough?
    If the unions don't come up with the goods this time round then quite a few (self included) will walk away, causing the monthly fees to go up for those that remain in order to preserve the lucrative salaries of our union leaders.
  2. bigjimmy2

    bigjimmy2 Lead commenter

    Excellent post, but, like most of my replies, I have no answers. :eek:
  3. JohnJCazorla

    JohnJCazorla Star commenter

    As you've said yourself there are no other viable alternatives. Just buying 'insurance' will mean unions can be totally ignored when it comes to pay and conditions negotiations, though it's a moot point if they have enough teeth at the moment.

    I once naively thought that in the 'real world' (whatever that is) the prevalence of zero-hours contracts and globalisation would lead to a resurgence of unions in a similar way to unions coming into existence in the first place. But paradoxically us weak, spineless teachers appear to be the last bastion of union militancy, And We're Not.

    As an ex-rep myself I keep trying to preach to the youth about why unions are necessary and I keep failing but I can't see the alternative that doesn't mean being dumped on from above even more.
  4. Marco82

    Marco82 Established commenter

    kid, you must be my long lost twin! I feel exactly the same, and what makes the whole business even more grotesque is that the Larry Flanagan grew up in the Militant Tendency, was a boom buddy of Tommy Sheridan, and when he was elected he seemed to represent a change to a more aggressive stance. Maybe he is hamstrung by the "moderates" surrounding him, but either way his leadership now faces a profound test for if he fails yet again to deliver then many will ask what is the point of paying union dues. I agree with others who say the members are not interested in their own living standards and worry more about how to please pupils, parents and the education bosses, but there is also a massive failure on the part of the leadership to build a proper campaign, to create a mood and show us a way forward. But to be honest, that's not going to happen. Maybe time to go back on the tools and get a decent wage.
  5. Effinbankers

    Effinbankers Lead commenter

    Symptomatic of the change in society since the 1980s, since the wicked lady was parked in number 10.

    Trade unions have been weakened, churches (not that I'm religious) weakened and all the other collective organisations that once dominated society (e.g. guilds, working mens clubs) are effectively gone. Striking is now seen as bad for society, when once it was seen as a fair way of bargaining.

    It's every man/women for themselves. Selfishness and greed rules. Teachers largely are no different. They'll lick asres to get what they want and to hell of being unified.

    Unless teachers start realising that teachers are the union and show some spine, nothing will change
    micgbanks and JohnJCazorla like this.
  6. micgbanks

    micgbanks Occasional commenter

    Put yourself in the position og the scout got or COSLA. Teachers are an easy hit. Huge industrial clout but no balls and weak members. Teachers have middle class ideals but have the lower working class salary. I would recommend my kids become plumbers or electricians rather than teachers. Better standard of living by far. I look at the probationers each year with pity. What will teaching be like by the time they fall over at the chalk face? The unions are the only hope of teachers. If the teachers back the unionsand the unions back the teachers we have some hope. If not we would be as well staying home. The EIS will let Scottish teachers down again. They will claim they are being pragmatic. Truth is that the people in the union who are making these decisions are full time union officials and don't have to work in the schools their decisions create and whose salaries are higher than teachers in schools.
  7. Marco82

    Marco82 Established commenter

    Totally agree, and that seems to me to be key, that the bureaucracy is too comfortable and content with its position to care overmuch about our salaries. If I were in the leadership I'd be quite happy to make fiery speeches and then look for an easy way out of conflict a step soon as it's presented. That's what will happen here. I do feel too though that the membership gets what it deserves in terms of leaders and wages etc. A further thought, one thing that always sticks in my craw is the fact that anything we win through fighting also goes to the sh..s who are not union members. They get a free ride and the benefits of what union members pay for. I actually detest those people.
  8. cobalt54

    cobalt54 New commenter

    The general feeling on here seems to be that the teacher unions are not gearing up for industrial action. There have been a few press releases hinting at something of the sort but the reality on the ground is, I suspect, far from that of an army in a state of mobilisation.

    Teacher unions have several advantages in how they organise. For a start the membership is easily managed within specific schools, sharing a common salary scale cross the land. They have all undergone tertiary education so should be able to digest relevant information and advice. Finally, the job of a teacher, as of yet, cannot be outsourced nor the school relocated to a third world country. With such a solid foundation, the only reason I can see for a docile membership is that the teacher unions prefer it that way.

    What political education has been disseminated over the years to members, the better to challenge the ideology that has ceaselessly undermined public service workers? The one that introduced the term ‘bog standard comprehensive’ into the language, that suggested poverty was a result of bad teachers failing their students. The one that worshipped the fuhrerprinzip whereby a heroic headmaster could ‘turn round a failing school,’ so long as he was paid enough dosh and had a SLT blessed with blue sky thinkers. The philosophy that believed loads of homework would not just keep teenagers off the street but also make them cleverer, just as more INSET training from the flourishing education consultancies would raise teaching standards. To my knowledge most of these insults to the classroom teacher have been less than vigorously challenged, indeed the leadership fetish has been enshrined in pay scales accepted by the SJNC: when I was first on the top of the classroom pay scale my headmaster (responsible for 1900 students) was paid double my salary; now a headmaster receives 2.4x more. To instil a little fear there is a steady drip of negative propaganda from the bloated GTC whereby a series of hapless chalkies are dragged before the Star Chamber and publicly named and shamed (their employers and colleagues are often granted anonymity.) Demoralised troops don’t win battles, so a commissar class which has allowed this relentless, pernicious criticism of the teaching profession to take root without protest will not be leading anyone anywhere soon.

    It is obvious that teacher unions which are failing to protect, far less inspire their own members, are going to struggle to win over public opinion in a pay dispute. Their own captive audience- students- are unlikely to have much idea of what trade unions are actually for. Army recruiters, church ministers, LGBT spokespersons, rotary club dignitaries, police officers can be given the floor to address school assemblies and some of these groups, as well as local businesses, sponsor prizes at end of term awards ceremonies. I am not aware of any official trade union presence at these events. The wider picture is little better with the teacher unions’ voice largely silent on the issues of the day- for example Scottish independence or brexit- never mind areas such as housing and welfare provision which have a direct impact on education. I understand that trade unions may not want to be aligned with any political party and that teachers would resent being told how to vote. But the staffrooms of Scotland cannot be political-free zones, some la-la land akin to Coronation Street where there has not been a proper political argument since student Ken Barlow of the CND was decked by warmonger Len Fairclough back in the early 60s, that strange Manchester where no one is interested in football far less ever offers an opinion on Pep Gardiola or Jose Mourinho. Teaching should not be a soap opera.

    What moves have teacher unions made to offer a positive image to the wider public? Even the Black Panther movement in the late 1960s realised that providing breakfasts was a good way to establish its credentials, something Larry Flanagan might have been expected to appreciate since this was a policy advocated by the SSP. I understand that breakfasts are now provided for students in many schools and I have no doubt this has been a popular development, but I am not aware that there is any connection in the public mind with this development and the EIS, SSTA, NASUWT. Where is the EIS School Football Trophy? The SSTA Debating Vase? The NASUWT Ecology Award? Nowhere, yet these union coffers are bulging with money, not having paid strike pay for the last 30 years. The only time the public hears the teacher union voice is when it is complaining about pay and workload, or the behaviour of pupils. Little wonder the public at large traditionally has little patience with teachers’ complaints since, so far as they can see, the profession is reasonably well paid, secure and enjoys short hours and long holidays.

    No doubt, as someone no longer resident in Scotland, some of what I have written is less precise than I would wish. I am indebted to Bigjimmy, Marco and Effinbankers ( why is there no GTC for bankers by the way?) for my knowledge of the day-to-day Scottish classroom and hope I have not misread you. However I am pretty sure my main point- the failure of teacher unions to educate the membership and show a positive face to the wider public- is valid. If I am correct then there will be no industrial action, since the teacher unions never intended there be any from the outset. Only an unexpected surge of anger from the classroom teachers can change that state of affairs.
    JohnJCazorla, bigjimmy2 and borges33 like this.
  9. bigjimmy2

    bigjimmy2 Lead commenter

    Wow, you have too much time on your hands, cobalt!

    Seriously, as accurate a description of the political/unions situation in schools as you are as likely to see. Some very good points made. Wish I had written that!
  10. beharder

    beharder Occasional commenter

    A number of interesting observations there Cobalt.
    However im starting to feel a growing anger amongst many colleagues who dont usually have any interest in Unions.
    A feeling that the SNP and Swinney are out to crush the profession for good-Maggie and the miners style.

    Roll on the strike.
    bigjimmy2 and inthered like this.
  11. micgbanks

    micgbanks Occasional commenter

    A new union movement for teachers would be enticing but really hard to set up either from a financial or a recognition position. The tree main unions have recognition on the SNCT and LNCT's as well as representation on gtcs and SQA as well as the v as rious SG work and advisory groups. A new movement would miss out on all of that. It would even struggle financially to service even the most basic needs of its members. It would have no input to collective bargaining discussions with SG/COSLA. I think it could only really provide basic legal cover. Alternatively not joining a trade union could be seen as a huge risk. I think for the moment we are stuck with what we have and we will have to work to reform the service we currently get.
    JohnJCazorla likes this.

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