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What is the point of belonging to a union?

Discussion in 'Workplace dilemmas' started by TEA2111, Jan 7, 2019.

  1. Timothy_Blue

    Timothy_Blue Lead commenter

    Odd though that the heads rarely disappear a member of their bloated and pointless SMT.
    a1976, TEA2111, catbefriender and 2 others like this.
  2. Timothy_Blue

    Timothy_Blue Lead commenter

    Yes I know and partly agree. Vicious circles and all...
    a1976 and TEA2111 like this.
  3. Curae

    Curae Star commenter

    Absolutely correct ... sadly I have seen this happen time and time again. It is experience NOT cynicism that brings many of us older teachers to come to such accurate conclusons. I have been outdpoken and yes got into troubIe * my middle aged hands slapped so to speak for having a mind . Oh I could add more to this excellent list (in terms of what happens at selection ) but I'll leave it for another day!
    Orchid2457, woollani, TEA2111 and 2 others like this.
  4. grumpydogwoman

    grumpydogwoman Star commenter

    My starting point is : how, in all conscience, can you NOT belong to a union?

    We believe in standing up and joining together to make the working world a better place
    That's the strapline on the homepage of the TUC.

    Discrimination in the workplace. A living wage. Health and safety. Who cares most about these things? Who is going to work hardest to ensure fairness? Am I prepared to cross my fingers and hope that my employer is fair and decent? They mostly are! But not always. How stupid am I? How uncaring am I? How selfish am I? How myopic? It's not about me. It's about all of us and what's right.
  5. Mrsmumbles

    Mrsmumbles Star commenter

    You got it! :(
    woollani and Curae like this.
  6. Mrsmumbles

    Mrsmumbles Star commenter

    Yes. The typical English teaching union may be flawed, but it tends to achieve the following:

    • When they get the time to see the teacher, the sense that this sort of marginalisation and bullying isn’t unique to the teacher. This is invaluable in reassuring a stressed teacher, as the edubullies like to make the teacher feel responsible for ‘their’ so-called shortcomings. You know, shocking and unforgivable flaws like getting older, family bereavement or care needs, difficult birth of recent baby, any other health complication.
    • The regional union reps are experts on this wing of employment law.
    • They are experts at negotiation. My old rep explained to me that he and the old dragon who used to run HR at my old school did this ‘for a job.’ Fair enough. Ugly but a true reality. Haggling to get the teachers on ken side and school on the other the best deal. This is English education in the 21st. Done well, it allows both sides to move on and teacher, if masochistic and hopeful enough, to try their hand at it all over again at another school, as their reference will be fair. Without union support, the psycho heads can and will write all manner of vindictive lies. There is currently no legislation to protect staff from this. Another reason, along with the ‘I can call you a pervert and your career is trashed’ one, why so many teachers can nI longer be bothered with the rubbish and are changing careers. It is a national outrage.
    • The rep haggles for the teacher. They are essentially ‘worth’ whatever cash deal they can get for the teacher atsvettkement, which is hopefully more than the union subs were that year. It does not take a genius to realise that this covert haggling under the pretence of ‘Oooh dear, Mr Smith is suddenly a rubbish teacher on capability proceedings at late stage, let’s haggle a deal with his rep to kick him out’ is a cheaper and (just about, it seems) legal form of early redundancy booting-out tactic by another name. There are obviously upper cash limits to the union-negotiated payouts. Unless the teacher can prove shocking and clear disability discrimination. As far as I could see, that is what the reps often look to find evidence of and what the HR teams are terrified of having prove against them. Big price tag on the costs, you see. I don’t think it’s even capped! Which in turn forms another weird form of discrimination by Heads and HR against otherwise fine but suddenly unwell and/or slightly older staff. It would take a very brave employer to slap a disabled, blind or clearly ‘impaired’ teacher onto capability. It is creating a narrow, low skilled, inexperienced workforce of the under 25s, with rapid turnover and poor continuity, low morale, the youngsters who remain or scale the greasy pole are promoted beyond their ability to function or manage...the vicious circle continues.
    So the unions do help, in the way that Seacole or Nightingale Nursed the dying foot soldiers amidst the whizzing canon fire and blood-soaked carnage of the Crimean War. We still all need a field hospital.
  7. FriarLawrence

    FriarLawrence Senior commenter

    It's really this, for me. Protection in the case of an allegation.

    My union rep (ASCL) was remarkably poorly-informed on how best to protect me in a situation involving my mental health, and so I pretty much had to accept the hand the school dealt me. My senior leadership career was destroyed in a week because I was still in the probationary period of a new post, had a breakdown, went off sick and was told that I wouldn't be passing probation while I was still off sick.

    In my previous post, I had come out with glowing references and my area of SLT responsibility (KS5) had been judged Outstanding in an Ofsted inspection. In the new post, I had passed my mid-probation review, and had an Outstanding lesson observation under my belt. They got rid of me anyway, using "probation" as a pretext, and my union was seemingly powerless to help. I was ill, and had no fight in me; they were supposed to fight for me. I didn't feel that they did anything of the sort.
  8. Curae

    Curae Star commenter

    Yes ....true ....sadly .....all of it !
    Mrsmumbles likes this.
  9. Mrsmumbles

    Mrsmumbles Star commenter

    Awful story there, Friar Lawrence. Yes, the system is unchecked and there are far too many stories like this. Utterly unfair. Hope that now moving on from this horror.
    Orchid2457, TEA2111 and catbefriender like this.
  10. Mrsmumbles

    Mrsmumbles Star commenter

    Ah, allow me. That would be the SLT planet called Hypocrisos It’s a lovely place. Outer limits of our own solar system. Very elite. Only the very few are allowed access to it. Very wealthy place. It is populated by people who whizz around all day in their Alpha Romeos, have double vision, speak EduNewspeak and whose heads are rammed up their excretory orifices. They call the inhabitants of this place hypocrites. Or twuntioles.
    Delerium likes this.
  11. Presleygirl

    Presleygirl Occasional commenter

    Union are there for the support of all workers. They fight for you, as someone said to me your one of us.

    I think if you have a union you should join it, if not then CAB, ACAS offer advice. Just employment law is tricky and changes.

    I hope most people don’t need them but ......... if you do then at least they exist.
    I would say if your in a safeguarding role it is very very foolish not to be in a union!
    nomad and Lara mfl 05 like this.
  12. FriarLawrence

    FriarLawrence Senior commenter

    I still work at the same school, as a mainscale teacher. They offered, and I was in no position to refuse. Hard to move on in those circs, but I am by nature a resilient and positive person so I'm doing my best. Not in a hurry to move, since I can get the job done pretty well with a relative minimum of stress, but when/if the right post comes up, they won't see me for dust.
  13. catbefriender

    catbefriender Lead commenter

    Glad to hear you have landed on your feet and ready for the right opportunity to come. Hope it comes soon.:)
    Curae and Orchid2457 like this.
  14. englishtt06

    englishtt06 Occasional commenter

    As we're in the habit on this thread of mangling some oft' repeated phrases....

    To the OP: "Ask not what your union should do for you, but what you should do for your union."

    As has been said a gazillion times on these discussion boards: a union is only as powerful as its members. Unions aren't always the best and often get it wrong, but do remember that school-based reps volunteer and the training they receive is patchy (not the union's fault, though), as well as any non-directed time they may or may not receive. Many moons ago when I was a union rep the SLT conflated two responsbility posts with my union time into one hour per week. I was also never able to go on the training because of my teaching commitments. Neither of these reasons were why I quit though - I saw an awful side to the SLT (who were a 'good' SLT on the whole) and some of my colleagues. It's hard enough to remain positive in an inner city comprehensive, so this was just one burden too many. Therefore, I salute anyone who volunteers.
    TEA2111, JohnJCazorla, Curae and 5 others like this.
  15. magic surf bus

    magic surf bus Star commenter

    If you've only joined a union as a personal insurance policy in the event of malicious allegations or SLT bullying you have completely missed the point of union membership. It isn't about just you.

    The clue is in the word 'union'.

    Don't bleat about them 'doing nothing' for you if you've done nothing for them apart from paying annual subs.
  16. Progressnerd

    Progressnerd Occasional commenter

    I'm a young teacher and needed the union twice already in my short career. First school I was put on an informal 'support plan' because I implicitly criticised SLT in an email (naively) and asked for more help with really disruptive kids in my second year of teaching. I faced massive intimidation after this and had to find another job (which I did) but the union ensured they backed off a little bit and couldn't get away with as much bullying as they wanted. Without the union I reckon they'd have made up some allegation and ruined my whole career.

    In another school I was also put on an informal ''support plan" due to spurious concerns over marking and feedback. The SLT were a little bit fairer than in my first school but the union ensured it was a fair process and it was really interesting to see how different SLT acted in the presence of an external union rep to when it was just me alone in my classroom with the chief agressive SLT member that had it in for me.

    Basically the union are like the teacher that comes round the corner when a kid is getting beaten up and the bullies all flee for a while.
  17. Curae

    Curae Star commenter

    Sorry to hear this soul destroying experience so many have experienced.
    Orchid2457 likes this.
  18. TEA2111

    TEA2111 Established commenter

    How convenient?!, how lucky?!, how fortunate?! for SLT to have the means of an ' informal support plan ' to control/bully/manipulate/ hide behind to cover a real issue of insecurity, threatened or whatever they want. Must feel good to have so much 'power'. Yes, union is negotiating an exit which I could not have done, but my bitterness comes in that my case is clear cut against SLT, but who have 'won' in managing me out. I'm left now to pick up the pieces for something that should never have happened in the first place.

    You seems to have experienced a lot in your short career, and I wish you all the best for the rest of your career.
    Curae likes this.
  19. FrauRussell

    FrauRussell New commenter

    From my experience, union response to requests for assistance can be very variable, from non-existent to invaluable. Some members get what they want, others feel let down. I don't think that's right, it should be consistent and good enough. I make no apologies for unions, but I do see modem trade unionism in teaching as a missed opportunity. I've thought about this a lot over the years. I came to teaching late after working in non-unionised commerce and industry where what you got depended on the benevolence of employers. Women did lose jobs and careers, subtly or overtly, because they dared to have a baby (yes they had rights but fighting for them is expensive and exhausting and they want a good reference. As a law lecturer said to me once, a person may fight and win a claim for unfair dismissal, but they need to think about their future career). Men and women lost income when they needed it most, in times of serious illness, for instance, and were sacked on a whim. It was a blessed relief to join a unionised profession and I thought people would value it. Other commentators have said similar things, but I think the main issue is that members don't or won't grasp their role in the collectivism of unions. I speak only from my own personal experience and frustration here, others may have different experiences. Members think it's a personal support service when they need it (which it should be) and nothing more (which it isn't). There is no understanding that the employment rights taken for granted like maternity rights, sickness and holiday rights, health and safety have been, literally in some cases, hard fought for by our predecessors. These can be taken away blatantly or by stealth if people only focus on themselves. Some union branches struggle to be quorate for important meetings, some schools can boast many members but how many support a quick lunch or after school meeting, even on something really important like job losses or changes? On a national strike day, fewer than 10% prepared to go on strike, instead going into school "to catch up on my marking" when the head closes the school. Unions won't be fully effective unless members make them so, shaking up first the union itself with demands for better service, collectively, and then employers.
  20. FriarLawrence

    FriarLawrence Senior commenter

    When I've been a member of a union which takes industrial action, I've always supported it and gone out on strike even when I didn't agree, or had voted against such action, because that's how collective bargaining works. I've always had strong dialogue with my school reps (where we've had them) and have given them my support. I've always been willing to engage in ASOSA. I've always paid my subs.

    Most teachers I know do the same. What else are we supposed to do? My school reps have never pushed ASOSA or asked for our support in doing so - I think most schools have had no idea it's even supposed to be happening. That's not the fault of the membership. My subs money goes into a collective pot to protect us; if we don't then receive much protection, I think we have a right to feel aggrieved.

    Don't get me wrong, union membership is super important, but IMO many reps do not do a bang-up job of representing members' interests even when they're being supported heavily by staff, so it's not that surprising that a lot of us are a bit jaded and see it as an allegation insurance policy.

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