From the TUC

Joe on the importance of unions as a teacher – #heartunions

09 Feb 2017, By

8th – 14th February 2017 is #heartunions week, celebrating the great work unions do, and paying tribute to the reps who are an important part of that. The Unsung Heroes series is running all week, sharing stories from reps and members about how being part of their union has impacted their lives.

Joe’s union journey started after signing up at the start of his teacher training.

“The first week of teacher training is a whirlwind of offers, advice and expectations. I signed up to everything at my Fresher’s Fair, and was rewarded with, amongst other freebies, a pizza, a pack of condoms and an apple. I also signed up to the 3 main teaching unions, because it was free, and union membership is normal within the teaching profession.

“I had never been part of a union, and had little knowledge of what it meant to be a member. A few months after joining I was flicking through a copy of ATL’s magazine, Report, and read a short advert inviting trainee or newly qualified teachers to apply to come to their national conference. I applied, attended, and my union journey started.”

Since joining, he’s become more and more involved in union activities, and sees the importance of a united approach.

“In my 2 years as an active union member I have had the opportunity to be involved in national and local campaigns, have an input into union policies, and attend wider TUC events. I am currently the vice-convenor of ATL Future, the section of the Association of Teachers and Lecturers specifically for trainee and newly qualified teachers. This group identifies issues facing my sector, and successfully addresses these through the wider union structure.

“In September I will attend my third TUC Congress as part of my union’s delegation, and the previous two were fantastic! Hearing the similar and different issues facing other sectors is interesting, and at times upsetting, and I have left Congress with even more desire to campaign for what I know to be right. In addition, the feeling of standing in front of hundreds of fellow trade unionists and making a speech on an issue you feel strongly about is hard to describe in words.”

In the teaching industry in particular, Joe is passionate about the impact unions can have.

“It is an exciting time within the teaching unions, as ATL and NUT will shortly vote on whether to form a new union. This new union will offer a united response to issues facing our profession, and ensure challenges are highlighted, debated, and addressed. Many within the education sector are extremely concerned by the government’s proposals for the future of education, and through the union we can offer a factual, united and strong case against these changes.

“In a little over 2 years I have gone from a very limited understanding of unions, to being a passionate and active member of ATL and the TUC. The importance of unions cannot be stressed enough – injustice and inequality in the workplace is something no worker should have to endure. Unions ensure issues are not faced in isolation, and offer support alongside those facing similar challenges. Whether it is an individual issue in a workplace, or a national disagreement, there will be support from your union and they will do their very best to get the best outcome for the worker.

“By joining a union you are giving your voice, your support, and your ideas in order to benefit all workers.”

The big aim for #heartunions week is to encourage more people to join a union. Please share this page with friends, colleagues and neighbours. If we each get one person to join a union this week, we’ll be well on the way to getting a better deal for working people all year round.

To find a union –

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