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Union slanging match mars TUC conference

A single teaching union appeared more distant than ever at the TUC conference as the National Union of Teachers further antagonised its "comrades" by its opposition to the workload deal.

As the deal became official TUC policy in Brighton this week, senior figures from the unions supporting it were enraged by the NUT's spoiling tactics On Tuesday, the day that a motion backing the agreement was due to be debated, the NUT placed a full-page advert in a national newspaper warning that the agreement would allow schools to employ "anyone" to teach. The motion, which also called for the deal to be funded properly, was overwhelmingly carried with only the NUT delegation voting against.

But no one from the NUTtried to win delegates over tp tjeor side. Doug McAvoy, general secretary, only made a passing reference to its opposition while proposing a later motion.

He said afterwards the silence was because the NUT had not wanted to look as if it was opposing improvements to support staff pay and conditions that Unison, the GMB and the Tamp;G had all argued the agreement would achieve. But members of unions signed up to the deal claimed it was a cowardly tactic to avoid facing the right to reply.

And they were further infuriated as they left the hall to be greeted by NUT members, handing them leaflets claiming the agreement had put the clock back on educational standards. All political wings of the union including Mr McAvoy and general secretary candidates John Bangs and Steve Sinnott were present.

Christina McAnea, Unison head of education, said she was disappointed the NUT had not engaged in debate but restricted itself to "cheap publicity stunts".

Chris Keates, deputy general secretary of the National Association of Schoolmasters Union of Women Teachers, said NUT members would be surprised that having spent months campaigning against the agreement their union was not prepared to make its case to the TUC.

The conference unanimously rejected proposals for student top-up fees while Chancellor Gordon Brown warned that ministers would not yield to unaffordable wage demands.

Nigel de Gruchy, the former NASUWT general secretary, displayed his flare for soundbites during his TUC presidential speech, when he claimed the Government had introduced a state of permanent revolution in the public services that would have made Mao Tse-Tung proud.

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