Unions are there for support

12th July 2013 at 01:00

I agree that "strike action is disruptive, destructive and divisive" ("What do we want? Support, not strikes", Letters, 28 June). Strikes miss the target - government ministers - and hit students and their families instead. England's education secretary Michael Gove, who wears votes of no confidence from "the enemy" as a badge of honour, thrives on them. Our teacher, support staff and headteacher members joined us because they wanted "support, not strikes".

Yes, school staff have a choice but they need to be aware that "alternative associations" cannot provide them with "all the benefits of a union", as Luke Snell suggests. Some will find useful the "range of professional services" these companies provide but organisations that are not trade unions do not have representation rights for individuals at formal meetings.

The real value of union membership is in the personal support and representation that members receive when they need it. Other benefits include various insurance covers, legal advice, commercial benefits, publications, conferences and well-established networks of experienced workplace, local, regional and national representatives, plus national negotiations and consultations on behalf of members.

It is only through negotiation and evidence-based campaigning that unions and other organisations will "enhance the image of teachers and support staff".

Deborah Lawson, General secretary, Voice: the union for education professionals, Derby.

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