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EDITIONS
Wednesday, 3 April, 2002, 16:35 GMT 17:35 UK
Setback for school 'super union'
Eamonn O'Kane
Mr O'Kane put forward plans for a union merger

The new leader of the second biggest teachers' union in the UK has run into trouble for starting a debate on a possible merger with the other unions.

The National Association of Schoolmasters Union of Women Teachers annual conference has passed an emergency resolution "deploring" the way the debate on the union's future had been handled.

Eamonn O'Kane, who takes over on Friday as general secretary, admitted that the vote had slowed down the process.

What caused so much upset was a pro-merger paper he wrote which was circulated to union branches - and promptly appeared in the news media - without the conference's approval.

The discussion and vote on the emergency resolution were held in secret.

Ballot

But talking to journalists afterwards, Mr O'Kane said the main upset had been with the process, not the principle.

He said he was aware that many of his members did not want to go down the road of merging with the National Union of Teachers and the Association of Teachers and Lecturers.

But he said many people were happy to consider the general issue - and the genie was out of the bottle.

He said at some stage there should be a ballot of the whole membership, and he would abide by the outcome of that.

The resolution had slowed down the process.

Survey

It instructs the union's leadership to submit a report on any further consideration of such issues for conference approval - although it is not clear whether this would necessarily have to be the annual conference.

"But I don't think it should be an inordinately protracted debate," Mr O'Kane said.

"This is an issue of great consequence for the members of NASUWT and hopefully at some stage they will get a chance to be consulted."

A survey of the three unions, published last week, suggested that 71% of their members were in favour of a merger.

See also:

24 Jan 02 | UK Education
17 Apr 01 | UK Education
06 Mar 01 | UK Education
28 Jun 99 | UK Education
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