Bit-part player makes it to star billing

20th April 2001 at 01:00
Hank "Mr Unity" Roberts has seemed a conference sideshow for many years, writes Amanda Kelly.

He is the man who spends his hard-earned money on membership fees of the three classroom teacher unions.

The flamboyant geography teacher, from Copland community school in Brent, has trailed to the many seaside and spa towns and cities that have hosted the Easter teacher conferences, pressing forward his message.

And after five years of campaigning, he is convinced his crusade is almost over.

The founder of Professional Unity 2000, a group with claims to have more than 100,000 associated teachers, he believes that the leaders of all the classroom unions are slowly coming around to the idea.

He said: "For people who are meant to be intelligent, I think the stupidity of haing seven separate unions in England and Wales is remarkable. Ministers must regularly rub their hands with glee that they spend so much of their time quarrelling with each other, rather than arguing with one united voice against the Government.

"The waste of resources that comes by having separate unions is also astounding - there are seven general secretaries to pay, seven headquarters to run and tonnes of duplicated paperwork created each year.

"It was a very welcome step to hear (NUT general secretary) Doug McAvoy finally talking sense this week and predicting an end to this ridiculous situation.

"If America, a country with more than 250 million people, can manage to have only two unions, then why on earth can't we manage with just one?" Conference diary, 13

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