As a longstanding trade union member who has held various roles within the Isle of Man branch of the National Association of Head Teachers, including President, Vice President, Branch Secretary, and casework rep, I have seen firsthand the many benefits that union membership can provide for teachers. In this blog, I will outline some of the key reasons why teachers might want to join a trade union. Given some of the current industrial unrest in the UK, and palpable upset within the teaching profession in England and Wales around below inflation pay awards, making sure you are represented by a union seems timely.
Trade unions are organizations that represent the interests of workers in a particular industry or profession. For teachers, a trade union can provide a range of benefits, including:
- Collective bargaining power: By joining a trade union, teachers can join forces with other teachers to negotiate with employers for better pay, working conditions, and other benefits. This can be especially powerful when teachers are facing industrial unrest, such as the current situation in England and Wales. In the Isle of Man, a pay dispute in 2019 – 20 led to a partnership forum, opportunity for ongoing pay negotiation and ultimately a revised and improved pay scale for Manx teachers which is strong testament to the effectiveness of collective bargaining power.
- Legal support: Trade unions often provide legal support to their members, including representation in cases involving disputes with employers or other legal issues. This can be valuable for teachers who may face difficult situations in the course of their work.
- Professional development: Many trade unions provide their members with opportunities for professional development, such as training courses and networking events. This can be beneficial for teachers who are looking to improve their skills and stay up-to-date with the latest developments in their field.
- Advocacy: Trade unions often advocate for their members and for the rights of workers in general. This can include lobbying for better working conditions and pay, as well as working to improve the overall state of education.
- Policy shaping: By joining a trade union, teachers have the opportunity to shape educational policy at the school, local, and national level. This can include providing low-key support to branch committees, as well as organizing and activism to push for changes in national education policy.
In the current climate of industrial unrest in England and Wales, joining a trade union can be especially important for teachers. By adding your voice to the growing concern within the profession, you can help demonstrate the depth of feeling that exists around issues such as the below-inflation pay award and the fact that it is unfunded.
As someone who has seen the benefits of union membership firsthand, I strongly believe that education unions can provide valuable support and resources that can help teachers navigate the challenges of the profession and make a real difference in the lives of their students.
In addition to the many benefits of union membership, joining a trade union can also provide value for money and peace of mind. The access to high-quality representation, including potential legal advice, can be worth the fees alone. Furthermore, knowing that you are part of a wider membership can be very reassuring. Solidarity and strength in numbers can be powerful forces, and there is a lot to be said for the idea of standing together with your colleagues to advocate for fair pay and working conditions.
In the NAHT we sum it up as community, growth and voice, and here in the Isle of Man, NAHT’s positive industrial relationships serve as a reminder of what can be achieved by standing together.