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Are unions actually any good?

Discussion in 'Personal' started by kevinstreet, Oct 6, 2016.

  1. kevinstreet

    kevinstreet New commenter

    like most teachers I pay a lot of money to a teacher Union every year. However, are they any good? Teaching has become harder and harder every year. Why are they not putting pressure on the government to improve pay and workload conditions? I recently spoke to an employment solicitor, someone who actually earns their wages, he says what schools expect of teachers is illegal and extremely unhealthy. I like most teachers love my school, my pupils and even my head teacher, but we cannot keep working 60-70 hours per week and expect to live a happy healthy lives. Do the unions need to do more to help teachers? How about ask the government to pay teachers for all the overtime we work? Or stick to the European working directive of 48 hours per week?
  2. Burndenpark

    Burndenpark Star commenter

    I'm away from the chalkface now, but Burndetta's still there.

    Firstly don't forget the 60-70 hours tend to be term time and there are long holidays, but, for many, it is still long hours even after taking that into account.

    Secondly- a union is only as strong as its members. If teachers won't support militancy (and many won't) then all you can do is plead, which doesn't work frightfully well.

    Thirdly- when I say "a union" clearly that's not the case in teaching where there's more than one union and one of them (if I remember correctly) has a policy or rolling over and asking to have its tummy tickled.

    Congratulations on your first post since the relaunch :)
  3. Calpurnia99

    Calpurnia99 Star commenter

    I've found individual reps to have been excellent in making Leadership toe the line but for every encyclopaedic firebrand, I've known ten mumblers who just rolled over.

    For individual grievances, it does depend on the calibre of the rep, but for bigger things like workload, it depends on the will of the membership, and that has been corroded away by the regime of blame. No one's sticking their head over the parapet to get observed out of a job.
  4. ilovesooty

    ilovesooty Star commenter

    As @Burndenpark said - unions are as good as their members. How involved are you in your union?
  5. Duke of York

    Duke of York Star commenter

    So the bottom line then, is that the membership is weak. Not much chance of teachers ending up in Wikipedia like the 1888 matchgirls or the 1976 Grunwick workers.

    Incidentally, I still hum "Some day my prints will come" when the dog hears the postman.
    slingshotsally likes this.
  6. install

    install Star commenter

    Just look at some Academies where they do not recognise Unions. If that were a big store like Tesco it would cause an outcry but the Government allow it.

    Also you have to accept that when you work with the children and the public that you will need a Union as back up ...
    slingshotsally and needabreak like this.
  7. needabreak

    needabreak Star commenter

    Yes legal backup via union insurance used to be recommended on my pcge years back.

    All unions have had their wings clipped and as people lose money on strike days they are less likely to go out long term so action is less effective, especially if their real incomes have dropped over the last few years, they often can't justify the loss of pay.

    The main problem is that, as the state is the main employer they behave like a monopsony dictating the salary level... they know they retain power until teachers en mass vote with their feet. Meanwhile teachers don't recognise that there is a life outside of the state classroom and have been micro managed and brain washed into thinking they are only as good as the last set of students results, so they fight to stay in the system until they are worn into the ground and forced to move on, which is career suicide. Also they don't often value their transferable skills or are made to feel they aren't ever good enough and so they fear leaving the secure sector... swings and round abouts sadly... then again who enters teaching for the recognition or remuneration?
    monicabilongame and install like this.
  8. Oscillatingass

    Oscillatingass Star commenter

    To the OP. The Union is the membership it is that simple. You and your fellow union members need to work as a team to improve the working conditions at your school. You will get advice from your Union Local Office who will back you to the hilt but the impetus needs to come from you and your colleagues. If there is no enthusiasm from the members at your school the Union can do nothing.

    By the way, the state is not the main employer, the schools are due to Gove's " reforms" and this is why it is so much more challenging for the teaching unions: they are dealing with vast numbers of free schools, free standing Academies, Multi Academy Trusts, LEA schools. Each of theses individual schools are likely to have their own "take" on pay progression, maternity pay, redundancy, capability etc. Of course this is precisely what Gove wanted.

    In my view national strikes achieve nothing but publicity. Local strikes can achieve results. A couple of years back an Academy school near where I live was subjected to a rolling programme of strike action because the Head refused to recognize the Union. The Head backed down because he didnt want the bad publicity and the hassle. The reason that victory was won was because Union members actually got off their bottoms and got organized. I'll end as I began. The Union is the membership, it is that simple.
    slingshotsally, emerald52 and HargSue like this.
  9. dumpty

    dumpty Star commenter

    But that is the typical response of a lazy and incompetent leader. Are they not elected to represent and defend people who otherwise are busy and need their help?

    I take your point and it is valid but these people are getting handsomely paid to ease teacher workload and pressure.

    They have to get off their backsides, too.
  10. T34

    T34 Lead commenter

    The union is you and your mates (the clue is in the name). Are you any good?

    I think you are asking "Is the union leadership any good?"
    All I can say is that a rabble is hard to lead.
  11. colpee

    colpee Star commenter

    Or the numbers of dissatisfied people are not so large? I know some people who pay their dues as an insurance for legal cover, but have little interest in the union as a political force.
  12. Jolly_Roger1

    Jolly_Roger1 Star commenter

    After my last school became an Academy, it did not recognise Unions, nor would it engage with them in any way. Anyone you took to a meeting with the SLT had to sign a declaration that they were not a union 'functionary', nor had they any legal training. In my case, the NAS appointed a solicitor to deal with the management. The prospect of being called to account legally made it take notice.
    install and emerald52 like this.
  13. emilystrange

    emilystrange Star commenter

    an awful lot of teachers don't actually know what's going on because they don't keep up with things.
  14. HargSue

    HargSue New commenter

    They don't have time to. When did you last rest in a staff room? My school doesn't even have one.
  15. lanokia

    lanokia Star commenter

    For a long time I thought they weren't any good...

    Then I needed them...
  16. FrankWolley

    FrankWolley Star commenter


    I needed my union twice in my career. Their help was vital at those two times.

    FWIW I've paid home & contents insurance for 36 years and never claimed... Perhaps I should get rid of that! o_O
  17. emerald52

    emerald52 Star commenter

    @kevinstreet If your school does not have a rep for your union please volunteer. You will get training from the union. Have a read on workplace dilemmas. Most of these problems are highly confidential so only the member, union rep and management will know what goes on. I am retired but was a union rep. I supported individual members and, along with other union reps, negotiated better conditions for members. Every year scrutinising the directed time budget and calendar led to improvements after raising problems. A much better pay and redundancy policy was achieved. The regional officers were able to come in to deal with the threat of redundancies. The unions are on your side unlike management.
    slingshotsally likes this.
  18. Jolly_Roger1

    Jolly_Roger1 Star commenter

    @emerald52: I take your point but Unions are of little use in a school that does not recognise them, and will not talk to them.
    slingshotsally likes this.
  19. grumpydogwoman

    grumpydogwoman Star commenter


    The experience of @emerald52 chimes with my own. That's what I did.

    OK. We should be sorting nearly everything at school level ourselves. You do not need someone from region on a white horse to rescue you unless it is a very serious matter.

    If you all pay attention to union advice and work together at school (for the youngsters - we have a word for this - solidarity) you will never need to 'go upstairs'.

    If your rep does as good reps should do (read @emerald52 again) and you all get on board with not going to endless meetings, knowing your rights and not doing lunch-duties then you'd all be a lot better off. I know what comes next. "I daren't." Well, you will have to convince your colleagues to do it too. Or just do it alone. We've all been through it. I went on strike in the 80s. OK, times have changed. But the union (what do you a union is? it's a group of working people) is YOU. It's not the administrators. The union of teachers has teachers at its core as the members. It's up to you.

    I repeat: union members together work well in many schools to protect each other, to know their rights and keep the employer on the straight and narrow. So I'll ask the OP. Are YOU any good?
    slingshotsally and install like this.
  20. emilystrange

    emilystrange Star commenter

    i am sitting in mine right now with my colleagues - i'm sorry you haven't got one. how did that happen? did anyone raise an objection? i manage to keep up with news and views in education, even with a full teaching and marking load.

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