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EDITIONS
Unions 2000 Saturday, 22 April, 2000, 18:09 GMT 19:09 UK
Teachers snub and heckle minister
estelle morris
About a third of the delegates walked out on Estelle Morris
By Sean Coughlan at the NUT conference in Harrogate

Angry teachers snubbed the Education Minister Estelle Morris by walking out during her speech to the National Union of Teachers.

As the minister began to address the union's annual conference in Harrogate, scores of delegates took part in an organised walkout, as a protest against the government's introduction of performance related pay for teachers.

The walkout was even greater than that which greeted the Shadow Education Secretary Theresa May, earlier in the day.

estelle morris
Estelle Morris: "I've seen it before"
The speech was repeatedly disrupted by hecklers - who shouted comments such as "You don't listen to us, so why should we listen to you?".

Ms Morris claimed that the extra money attached to performance pay was the "best opportunity for a generation" for teachers to earn higher salaries.

Despite the persistent interruptions and calls of "shame" and "tax the rich", the minister pressed ahead with her arguments that performance pay would benefit the teaching profession.

Shouting

But as she finished, the union's general secretary, Doug McAvoy, took to the rostrum and in a fiery reprimand for the hecklers attacked them for damaging the union's campaign against performance pay.

doug mcavoy
Doug McAvoy: Angry
Shouting above protests from the hall, he said: "If you want to be taken seriously you won't do it by losing the respect of the public."

And to rising applause from his own supporters and to noisy disapproval from his opponents, Mr McAvoy then launched a furious attack on protestors, accusing them of "not even knowing how to heckle" as they were booing and jeering in places in which the minister had been praising teachers.

Although emphasising his opposition to performance pay - and the need for an articulate and sustained campaign to stop it - Mr McAvoy later condemned the "chanters and ranters" who had sought to disrupt the minister's speech.

'Not a quitter'

He called them "unrepresentative of the membership" and "representing the interests of the extreme left".

Speaking to journalists after the conference, Estelle Morris said that having been a teacher herself for 18 years she was disappointed by the "vocal minority".

But she said she was "a sticker and not a quitter" and would not be deterred by the rough reception from a union of which she is still a member.

The minister described it as "madness" that the union was "threatening to lead its members into industrial action against a pay rise" at the same time that the union was advising members to apply for that 2,000 increase in salary.

"If performance pay is such a dastardly thing, one would not expect the union to be recommending members to apply for it," said the minister.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's Mike Baker
"Several hundred delegates walked out"
Estelle Morris
"Some teachers are better than others."
Doug McAvoy
tells the BBC's Liz McKean:"You don't win any argument by heckling."
See also:

22 Apr 00 | Unions 2000
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