Poles apart on social partnership

5th March 2010 at 00:00

I was surprised to read "'Professionalised' union officers 'severely restrict' teacher power" (February 26). The quotation refers to "the decision-making process" being "professionalised" by officials, not to officers being "professionalised". Should union officers be unprofessional?

Not only is the photograph of the social partnership meeting old, but this "new" book was first published in December. The "Who is in" box missed unions the GMB, Unite and Voice, as well as NEOST and the Welsh Assembly government.

Turning to the book, much of what is presented seems to be based on narrow research and thin "evidence". Elected and grassroots members of Voice are involved and consulted, at national and local level, in our social partnership work, and I and my fellow national representative on the Workforce Agreement Monitoring Group have years of teaching experience.

I dispute the assertion of widespread "dissatisfaction with the outcomes of the social partnership". The Workforce Agreement has introduced major improvements in working hours and conditions, performance management, engagement and professionalism for teachers and support staff. The partnership has, indeed, given unions much greater involvement in decision making.

Voice advocates negotiation, rather than conflict, and this modern partnership is about progress through constructive dialogue, rather than the old-fashioned "them and us" approach to government-union relations. Yes, there are some problems with local implementation, but these can be best addressed by long-term engagement.

That doesn't mean unions cosy-up to ministers and civil servants. Voice has concerns about many government policies - and we're not afraid to say so.

Philip Parkin, General secretary, Voice, the union for education professionals, Derby.

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