NEW YEAR, NEW UNION?

The question on so many lips as 2016 came to an end was how to ensure that 2017 was a better year. That won’t be easy of course, not least because there are so many things we don’t control. This term, however, you will have the opportunity, as an NUT member, to do something which could shift the balance of power in education towards teachers and other school staff for the first time in decades. Between February 27th and March 21st you will be balloted on a proposal to form a new education union. If agreed, this union will be an amalgamation of the current NUT and ATL and will be not only the largest (as the NUT already are) but also the majority union in our education system. It is likely also to be the majority union in almost every school. Leeds NUT will be urging members to vote YES in this ballot and we would like to explain our reasons.

Unity is strength: It has never made sense for there to be so many teacher unions and it has been the aim of the NUT for many years to create one union for all teachers. Every classroom teacher knows that whether it comes to resolving problems in an individual school or taking effective national action, we are hampered by our own disunity. This is an indefensible, pointless and indulgent disunity which serves no-one better than it serves our employers and government. We have tried hard to involve all three classroom teacher unions in unity discussions. The ATL have responded positively and, after two years of talks and preparation both unions have agreed to propose a new union to their members.

New circumstances: the education world has changed beyond recognition in recent years. Where we once had one employer (the local authority) we now have a multitude of academy chains, free-standing academies, trusts, free schools and the local authority. This makes it so much harder to ensure that all members are represented effectively and their conditions of service negotiated properly. It makes no sense for at least three separate unions to stretch their limited resources trying to send three people to each negotiating meeting when one united union could represent all.

First step not the last: we see the proposed new union as a beginning not an end. The NUT aim remains one union for all teachers and we will continue to work with other unions to achieve this. The invitation to NASUWT remains on the table as it always will. Membership of the new union will also be open to support staff so the possibilities for unity and increased strength in schools is very significant indeed.

Widespread support: the proposal for a new union has already been supported overwhelmingly by the National Executives of both NUT and ATL and by special delegate conferences of both unions held simultaneously on November 5th 2016. Leeds sent nine delegates to the NUT special conference at which the proposal to create the new union was supported by 97% of delegates.

Some key facts about the new union:

  • It will be called the National Education Union (NEU).
  • The NEU will exist from September 2017.
  • There will be a transition period from September 2017-December 2018 during which there will be ATL and NUT sections. Local branches and the NECs of both unions will continue to exist during this period.
  • From January 2019 these sections will disappear and there will be one NEU at local and national levels.
  • The rules of the new union guarantee representation on the National Executive for Sixth Form, Independent sector and support staff members as well as the current NUT equality seats (disability, BAME and LGBT).

The NUT is a democratic member-led union so the decision is now with you. The final stage in the process towards a new union is a ballot of our members later this term. At the same time ATL members will be taking part in their own ballot on the same question. Leeds NUT is

convinced that the advantages to be gained by reducing the unnecessary, outdated, divisions between teacher unions are huge and the prospect of a new union representing the great majority of teachers is a sure way of making 2017 and beyond better than 2016. On that basis we would strongly urge you to vote YES to the new union.

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