Single union is a 'non-starter'

18th April 1997 at 01:00
Brian Williams (TES, April 4) is absolutely right. Teachers need a focus of unity, but he and his 72 colleagues are mistaken in seeing this in a single teachers' union.

This is both unrealistic and counterproductive. Such a monolith would be a stifling death-trap. Teachers are too diverse in terms of active style. Some are very assertive or aggressive; some are middle of the road; some prefer to keep a low profile.

A typical Professional Association of Teachers person is hardly interchangeable with a typical National Union of Teachers one.

The National Association of Schoolmasters Union of Women Teachers member is definitely too proactive for the typical moderate (and fiercely proud of it) Association of Teachers and Lecturers member.

They all agree schools are under-resourced or staff overloaded but they have their preferred ways of doing what they can to persuade the Government to see this.

A single union is a non-starter. A diversity of unions is necessary and right.

The only realistic and achievable form of unity is a confederation or federation (synonymous as far as I am concerned) of unions. This would give teachers a common voice while preserving the necessary autonomy with regard to action in line with the ethos of each union.

Some years ago, I wrote on behalf of about 50 per cent of my school's staff group to the leaderships of the six unions suggesting the urgent need for such a confederation and even giving a fairly comprehensive outline of its principles and possible structure.

The NUT expressed its one-union preference. None of the others gave a positive response - not even Nigel de Gruchy, a person for whom, in all other respects, I have great admiration.

There are two obstacles to teacher unity: lack of vision (the leaderships are particularly at fault here) and a stultifying adherence to outdated structures - translatable as either a ghetto mentality or an attachment to power.

J ABRAMI 120 The Tideway Rochester Kent

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