Tuesday 28 March 2017

Union Activity Should be Uplifting and Rejuvenating

After school today, I went to Slough NUT AGM, followed by Milton Keynes NUT AGM. At the end of the second meeting, I got into a very brief conversation with someone about the difficulty of balancing union activity with an increasingly stressful job. Far too many potential union activists are put off by the sheer volume of workload that teaching now entails. The only antidote to this is for union activity itself to be the thing that rejuvenates and recharges activists after a hard day at school.

The conversation reminded me of the regional union meeting we attended in Pinar del Rio in Cuba, where we were welcomed with song and delegates spoke animatedly about the difference involvement in the union made to their lives and those of their colleagues and neighbours. It was hard not to feel excited and energised by the end of the meeting.

We need to think about this when we are planning union meetings and activity. What is the purpose? What practical aims will we be achieving and how tangible will these be for those who attend? How will people feel when they leave the room?

Teaching is a hard job, made harder by the increasing lack of professional control over the work we carry out. When a teacher gives up their time to attend a union meeting or get involved in union activity, we must make sure it is worthwhile.

As the union's Training Adviser, Lindsey McDowell wrote in a joint chapter we are working on, we must "ensure that reps know that union activity is a way to make a difference, which is what they love about teaching, and that through collective action they can challenge and overcome the pressures."

Wise words indeed.

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