Defeatist unions need to be challenged

30th June 1995 at 01:00
Our head is a woman who appears to have severe problems and who attacks strong personalities through disciplinary procedures. When she is being out-manoeuvred she attacks the most vulnerable, whether single parents struggling to keep their lives in order or ancillaries who feel they can't fight back. There are up to 10 threats of disciplinary action in the air at the moment. I am in the NUT, but we have found exactly the same defeatist attitude as others have recorded with the NASUWT.

People who have been involved in hearings have found to their horror that they have no rights to anything beyond the governors' appeals committee - a kangaroo court. The careers, houses and lives of excellent teachers are being compromised by heads who are allowed to do anything to bring about constructive dismissals with the consent of the governors' disciplinary sub-committee.

In my case, I have been given renewed hope by the example of Rob Prior who was unfairly dismissed by the governors of the Claremont High School in Brent but who was successful in judicial review proceedings. The Secretary of State should have intervened and compensation was awarded.

In The TES (May 5) he challenged his union, the NASUWT, to do something about bullying in the workplace. It had been reluctant to defend him but if it was "seen to be fierce in defence of its members it will both chasten rogue heads and encourage members to resist bullying".

My advice to anyone facing disciplinary proceedings is to establish whether the head and governors are acting legally under section 3 of the l988 Education Reform Act. We cannot depend on our unions to do this. You may find, as I have, that the law is being broken and that you have the right to claim constructive dismissal and go to a tribunal.

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