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Teachers set for new half-million union after merger plan moves forward

"National Education Union" overwhelmingly carried at special conferences and could be TUC's fourth largest affiliate

by Conrad Landin

Industrial Reporter

TEACHERS are set to be represented by a new union of half a million members - after two existing unions voted to ballot their members on a merger plan.


The National Union of Teachers and the Association of Teachers and Lecturers held special conferences in London on Saturday to debate the proposals, which were overwhelmingly carried.


The new organisation will be called the National Education Union and will likely be the TUC’s fourth largest affiliate.


NUT general secretary Kevin Courtney said the decision marked “a historic day for teacher trade unionism”, saying teachers must unite in order to face off government attacks on education.


“The NUT has long been an advocate of professional unity and today’s decision by both NUT and ATL  delegates takes it another step forward,” he said.


“Over the past decade the education landscape has seen unprecedented change,  most of which has had a detrimental effect on both school staff and pupils. If we are to protect our education system effectively the profession needs to be speaking with one voice.”


ATL leader Mary Bousted added: “A new union will bring together the best elements of ATL and NUT to give a louder voice to education professionals when speaking out against poor government policy and bad employment practices.


“The new union will support every member in maintained or independent schools and colleges - teachers, lecturers, support staff, leaders - to come together to make their working lives better, letting them concentrate on their main purpose, to educate children and young people.”


If the members’ ballots approve the plan, the new union will be formed next September, in a transitional phase with separate ATL and NUT sections and a joint executive committee and joint general secretaries.


The sections would be integrated in 2019, and a single general secretary would be elected from 2023.


The third main teaching union, Nasuwt, is not involved in the merger plans.


But the new union is likely to also recruit teaching assistants and heads, who are both already represented within ATL’s structures.


The NUT special conference carried the motion by 96.6 per cent, and it is thought the margin of victory at the ATL event was even higher.


Former ATL president Hank Roberts, the organising secretary of the Unify campaign, told the Star: “This was stunning proof if any was needed that the education workers’ unions need and want unity.


“Our belief is that workers are best served when there is not competition from different unions for members. Our intention from this great step forwards is to unite the whole sector into one education union - over one million strong.


“This won’t be a magic solution to our problems but it will help massively. We need to organise and reorganise to take on the people destroying state education and defeat them.”


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