But it seems nothing can deter Hank Roberts. Relations between the National Union of Teachers, the Association of Teachers and Lecturers and the National Association of Schoolmasters Union of Women Teachers may be at a new low but the founder of Unity 2000 continues his lonely crusade for one union.
Already on the ATL and NUT national executives, Mr Roberts has just stood for election as the NASUWT's executive member for outer London. And being beaten by the incumbent Alan Holmes by 386 votes to 275 has left him far from disheartened. "As I am not a local NASUWT secretary I had not expected to win at the first attempt," he said. "I will be back next year and I am pretty confident I will be on the executive before long."
Mr Roberts said he was "dismayed" by letters from the ATL and NASUWT to their members criticising the NUT.
He blamed NUT general secretary Doug McAvoy's "absurd" policy of attacking other unions. But he will be making his annual tour of all three conferences this Easter and believes it is more important than ever to fight for professional unity. Meanwhile, the National Association of Head Teachers and the Secondary Heads Association have begun discussions on closer collaboration that could eventually lead to a single association with around 40,000 members.
This week, SHA officers will attend an NAHT council meeting for the first time, in a reciprocal arrangement designed to encourage closer ties. The moves have been sparked by an NAHT conference motion passed last year urging talks with SHA with a view to merger.
But both leaderships have warned of differences in culture and say that bringing the two associations together would be a lengthy process. They say there is no chance of merger before the retirement of David Hart, NAHT general secretary, in August 2005.