Our members say unity is strength

4th April 1997 at 01:00
I have been a teacher for 27 years, and have had the good fortune to have worked in five different schools, in four different local authorities.

I have been secretary of two local associations in the National Association of Schoolmasters Union of Women Teachers, as well as secretary of two county associations. I have represented NASUWT at local trades councils, as well as at the Wales TUC for the past 10 years. I did, furthermore, represent secondary school teachers on the South Glamorgan Education Committee for 13 years. I can honestly say I have met a very wide range of teachers - and members of other trade unions - and talked to a wide range of teachers. I work in a school of 131 teachers, so I have daily contact with a great cross-section of teachers, many of whom are NASUWT members.

It is my conviction that the majority of teachers favour the creation of one teacher union - a conviction based on nearly three decades of continuous contact with serving teachers on a daily basis. Never more strongly has this feeling come across than at present. This feeling is shared by non-teacher trade unionists, who are sometimes amazed by the divisions among teacher unions.

To test my thesis I devised a questionnaire and distributed it to all 131 teachers in Whitchurch High School; 78 replied, of whom 72 thought it was in the best interests of teachers that there be one teaching union, and all but one of the NASUWT members thought so. I hope to extend this survey to other schools in Cardiff.

I have on a number of occasions tried to persuade NASUWT conference to hold a ballot on amalgamation - so far in vain. I shall continue to do so, because I believe the best interests of teachers would be served by the formation of one teacher union. At the moment the National Union of Teachers, Association of Teachers and Lecturers and NASUWT all advertise for members - the more fanatic certainly among the NASUWT treating it like some missionary pursuit in an attempt to proselytise and to recruit sinners to the fold.

If only we could devote the same time and energy to protecting and improving the rights of teachers, as to internecine warfare and rivalry, perhaps we would be taken more seriously by the employers, especially the Department for Education and Employment, and create a more united approach, which would not only enhance our image in the eyes of parents and the media, but create a more effective forum for discussion with our employers.

It is time to put an end to inter-union rivalry, bickering and the mutual, even ritual, abuse that takes place. The only beneficiaries of disunity are the employers and the Government. Aphorisms have the tendency to be either pompous, pretentious nonsense, or self-evident truths. "Unity is strength" is one that falls into the latter category - moreover, it is what the majority of teachers want.

BRIAN WILLIAMS Whitchurch High School Cardiff

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