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Joining a union when teaching abroad

Discussion in 'Teaching abroad' started by flamejoy, Sep 2, 2016.


As a teacher working abroad (outside of UK), do you have & maintain membership of a teaching union?

  1. YES, I am member of a local teachers union

    1 vote(s)
  2. YES, I kept my UK union membership

    1 vote(s)
  3. NO

    8 vote(s)
  1. flamejoy

    flamejoy New commenter

    I have just started a teaching job in an international (British) school in Netherlands. Today i asked 5 different colleagues whether they are members of a union and if they can advise me about joining one. I've always maintained union membership throughout my 18 year long teaching career in UK. None of the colleagues i spoke to had any union membership, nor could they advise me as to where to start. One teacher told me they did subscribe to a local Dutch teachers union years ago but couldn't understand any of the information and forgot the name of the organisation! I will approach HR on Monday to see if they can help/advise. I wish to ask here if anyone has experience of joining a union when working abroad? If they consider it worthwhile? I began my teaching career in 90s when every teacher i knew was in a union and it was expected and encouraged. Seems its not so common nowadays?
    I'm curious as to how many teachers working overseas have union membership?

    Thank you :)
  2. dumbbells66

    dumbbells66 Lead commenter

    In nearly 10 years abroad i have never heard of anyone in international teaching being part of a union.

    It is pointless being part of a union back home in the UK when you in another country as there is nothing they can do for you. There are no "international laws" on unions. If anything goes wrong you will be held to the laws of the country you are in.

    You are pretty much at the mercy of the school you are working at.
  3. miketribe

    miketribe Established commenter

    I have been a member of a local teachers' union for the past 25 years. I haven't had to use their services often, but it was useful when I did need legal advice and it certainly gives a feeling of security. The dues are tax deductible.
    All but the very smallest Spanish company have to have an elected "comite de empresa" to represent the workers in negotiations with the management. I was on the one at our school for 20-odd years, and whilst the power-balance was certainly tilted towards management, we did achieve some improvements.
  4. dumbbells66

    dumbbells66 Lead commenter

    i would add a word of caution. i would not be making a big "song and dance" about unions in International schools, you may find when it comes to renewing your contract that they may not be willing to do so. while you are in Europe you will have some level of protection due to it being in a civilised part of the world, but if you ever move further afield you might find yourself in a little hot water.
  5. Jeremyinspain

    Jeremyinspain Occasional commenter

    The National Union of Teachers has a membership status (COSSA) 'for members teaching in an overseas location'.
  6. the hippo

    the hippo Lead commenter Community helper

    Membership of any union is illegal in some countries in the Middle East. This certainly was the case in Qatar and in Saudi Arabia. Therefore I would not recommend membership of a teaching union to any international teacher. In the UK, union membership was indeed worthwhile and the cost of membership could be set against tax.
  7. gulfgolf

    gulfgolf Established commenter

    I can't recommend asking HR.
  8. miketribe

    miketribe Established commenter

    I wouldn't recommend it, either, in the Middle East, but you shouldn't need to worry in Western Europe. I believe the OP said he was in Holland. I'd recommend Google to find some addresses and then personal visits to the offices. In my experience, most Dutch people seem to have an enviable command of English...
    I wouldn't get TOO paranoid about "people" finding out you were once a union member and persecuting you for it... As you said, A LOT of British teachers are union members and don't seem to get harassed when they go abroad to teach.
  9. dumbbells66

    dumbbells66 Lead commenter

    Being a member of a union while back home is never going to be an issue, being "unionist" in the International school community however could be very problamatic. In Western Europe you will be fine, but as soon, or if you leave, i would keep it quite if i was you.
  10. g2016

    g2016 New commenter

    I don't think being a member of a union is such a big thing in The Netherlands. I found the Algemene Onderwijs Bond (http://www.aob.nl), the general teachers' union. Another I found is "Leraren in Actie", teachers in action, (http://www.lia.nl). Then there's the UnieNFTO (http://unienfto.nl). There are many more, google "vakbond docenten" and they should come up :)

    You could always send them an email to see how they can be of assistance to teachers in international schools.
  11. davidbowiefan

    davidbowiefan Established commenter

    Union membership is nothing to do with HR. Even in the UK, asking them which union you should join would be rather strange.

    I'm not sure if the OP understands what a union is for. If he/she is in Europe, employment rights will be protected by law. If it is the political side they are interested in, it would be better to get involved with a political group. You are no longer employed by the state so union activism, pay bargaining, etc, are out the window.

    Maintaining your UK union membership is pointless unless the union has reps and legal experts in the country where you work.
  12. Syria1

    Syria1 New commenter

    Our school has a wage and conditions agreement with our staff and they are supported by a local union who sends a representative to assist them in negotiations. No-one has to join the union, but a number of staff are members. This is WE of course.

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