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Unions are not supermarkets

I WRITE regarding the extraordinary letter headed "Benefits of union rivalry" from Peter Shirley (TES, June 21). In likening trade unions to supermarkets and saying that having three main unions for teachers brings the advantage of competition, he fundamentally misunderstands the nature of unions.

Trade unions are organisations of employees in contradistinction to employers. Teachers are employees and can be hired and fired. The purpose of a union is that individually, compared to government or employers, workers have little strength.

Combination is the key to redressing the balance. The greater the combination, the greater the potential strength. The smaller the proportion the weaker. The old trade union adage "unity is strength" is a lesson of history born of long and bitter experience.

The "far left" do not control the National Union of Teachers. Simple mathematics shows that such a prospect would be even more remote in a united teachers' union.

We at Professional Unity 2000, a national organisation campaigning for teacher unity, would be most pleased to be contacted by teachers supporting our campaign.

Hank Roberts

Organising secretary

Professional Unity 2000

27 Ridley Road

Harlesden, London NW10

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