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EDITIONS
Tuesday, 17 April, 2001, 14:14 GMT 15:14 UK
Teachers' union 'gets real'
Doug McAvoy
Doug McAvoy says unions could merge within eight years
By Sean Coughlan at the National Union of Teachers' conference in Cardiff.

With less rhetoric and a greater mood of realism, the leader of the largest teachers' union prepared the ground for talks with government that could bring substantial changes to teachers' working conditions.

Without any of the fire and brimstone expected on such occasions, Doug McAvoy, general secretary of the National Union of Teachers, used his key-note conference speech to present a policy based on negotiation rather than confrontation.

Doug McAvoy
Doug McAvoy wants to win the support of parents

And he also urged conference to remember how teachers were perceived by the outside world and the importance of gaining the support of the public and parents.

Public scrutiny

"We will not succeed if we claim immunity against and the influence and scrutiny of others, we are not free agents," said Mr McAvoy.

The corner-stone of this approach will be a joint union campaign, involving an alliance of four teachers' unions, which is demanding a 35-hour week.


I predict that in two years' time the current landscape of pay, promotion and performance management will be unrecognisable

Doug McAvoy

Although backing the joint campaign with the threat of industrial action in the autumn, Mr McAvoy later said that now was not the time for "belligerence or threatening language" which could constrain negotiations.

After suspending industrial action against teacher shortages, unions, employers and the government are to begin a review of teachers' workload, after first meeting to determine the scope of the review.

"I predict that in two years' time the current landscape of pay, promotion and performance management will be unrecognisable," said Mr Mc Avoy.

But if these talks fail to deliver the improvements sought by teachers, Mr McAvoy told delegates that the industrial action could return.

Opposition

The speech to a conference that has been markedly more moderate than in recent years also reiterated the union's opposition to performance-related pay.

And he urged the delegates to continue the campaign against the "threshold" payments, which leave unsuccessful applicants feeling rejected and "humiliated".

But he returned repeatedly to the theme of professional unity, arguing that working together would allow teachers' unions a common strength that has eluded them in their individual campaigns.

"I tell you this, there has never been such a close rapport, never such a close understanding between the unions," said Mr McAvoy, who earlier in the week had predicted a single representative body for teachers within eight years.

See also:

17 Apr 01 | UK Education
15 Apr 01 | UK Education
16 Apr 01 | UK Education
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