Thursday, 24 April 2014

Are new, smaller and moderate trade unions the future?

NAHTedge logo
With most eyes focused on the probable takeover of the main civil service union PCS by Unite the news of the formation of a "new" union being formed amongst teachers broke today. The Times reports that:

A new trade union for classroom teachers is to be launched amongst growing discomfort at militancy and confrontation among the big education bodies.

It will be aimed at teachers in primary and secondary schools who have become dismayed at plans by the National Union of Teachers (NUT) to escalate its strikes. The union, the first  new such body for teachers for almost, hopes to attract those in senior posts, such as heads of departments or year groups.....

The organisation will be set up as a sister organisation to the  to the National Association of Head Teachers (NAHT) which represents about 28,000 heads predominately in primary schools. The creation of a direct rival will strain relations between unions and the NAHT which is far more moderate and only called one strike in its history.

The NAHT website announces:

NAHT has confirmed that it will be announcing the launch of an affiliate union, known as NAHT Edge, at annual conference in May 2014. This association will be aimed at middle leaders in schools, offering a blend of traditional trade union protection and high quality leadership development, underwritten by NAHT's experienced staff and officers.

Members of NAHT see it as a duty to mentor and support the next generation of leaders in a potentially difficult education climate. Many potential members are already part of NAHT, or have been eligible in the past, but the creation of a new organisation enables us to focus more on the needs of aspiring leaders rather than those more established in their careers.

To suit the needs of the next generation, NAHT Edge will use online media to create a direct democracy, with all active members creating policy and expressing their voice. The connection with NAHT will enable us to strengthen the bonds between middle and senior leaders and build a strong alliance for a better education system.

Membership will be live from September 2014 and the association hopes for up to 5,000 members in the first few years. Members of NAHT Edge will be members of NAHT and thus entitled to full trade union recognition and representation. However, the emphasis will also be on career and professional development. Louis Coiffait has been appointed chief executive of NAHT Edge and an advisory council will be established from among the early members.

Its only been a few months since the PCS union faced its' own split when members of the Serious Organised Crime Agency tried to negotiate a deal for compensation when they lost their right to strike following their subsuming into the police force. The PCS General Secretary Mark Serwotka went berserk and ended up suspending and eventually driving out the majority of members who formed the National Crime Officers Association. (See here and here)

Their President, Mark Sutton reported in February:

We are pleased to announce that our recruitment campaign, after only 7 months, has resulted in over 1500 NCA members of staff choosing to join the NCOA.

The NCOA provide employees of the NCA a union which understands the uniqueness of their role within the Agency and is committed to focusing all of its resources on the issues that affect our members within the organisation.

We now have 45 NCOA accredited representatives in workplaces across the organisation who are actively involved in representing members in grievance, discipline and employment related matters and we encourage you to identify your nearest representative.

Meanwhile as PCS collapses under the weight of Trotskyism some idiots, well one Steve Ryan asks:

If the take over goes ahead , do we bale? If so where to ? Do we build the IWW in the civil service. maybe we should be doing that now?

That would be the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW), an anarchist union, itself recently split by former egotistical PCS member Chris Ford who promptly set his own union the IWGB with just one branch but with himself as head honcho.

More likely PCS members who do not want to go into Unite, (which with the influx of trots from PCS who will immediately engage in "faction fighting" with their already present Socialist Party and SWP allies to undermine Unites links with the Labour Party) may consider the remaining option of Prospect.

Prospect: Union for professionals

Prospect is a far more level headed and mainstream union than PCS or even Unite which constantly veers to the far left under its own Marxist leadership.

If the merger does not go ahead there certainly needs to be a major political re-alignment to remove the far left wreckers who have bought PCS to its knees both politically and financially. 

The future of civil service trade unionism remains in abeyance, it requires the PCS membership and more reasonable reps to take up the challenge. 

All options need to be considered, remaining the same is not an option. 


  1. Replies
    1. Unison would be the logical choice in industrial terms but there are problems associated with such a move.

      The Unison leadership is not well disposed towards the Socialist Party or the rest of the far left. They would not want whole hordes of trots suddenly infesting their union. Rightly so in my opinion.

      Further it would also end the independence of civil service trade unionism in any case, albeit in a union that is more representative of the Public Sector than Unite.

      Frankly PCS needs to sort out its own mess, one created by the Serwotka/Socialist Party leadership that has wrecked the union.

      Get rid of them and PCS might, just might be able to rebuild.

      Trouble is I can't help but feel members are not being told the full story.

      Has anything appeared on the PCS website about the unions own pensions crisis? As I have pointed out before the "offer" to the unions own staff is worse than the Governments own "deal" for us.

      The PCS leadership have constantly trumpeted their own Alternative to Austerity programme which given the union itself is no longer viable under their leadership makes it seem a wee bit of a joke!

      If they can't run the union properly how can anyone trust their policies on anything else?

  2. The IWW and the IWGB are both syndicalist unions, not anarchist unions. While the IWGB did arise from a split, both unions are perhaps the most successful in the UK. Both have organised previously unorganised workers, won the living wage, union recognition, pension rights, sick pay and more for their members as a result of taking strike action.

    The reason that PCS haven't got anywhere isn't because they're "strike happy" but because they haven't used industrial action to the best effect - choosing instead to have token one day protest action to coincide with election season and then doing nothing for months on end. The reason that most reps don't want to go into Unite is because they're too craven to the Labour Party, a monolithic bureaucracy, and the most stunning victory of recent times from the Sparks (there we go again, disruptive strikes and direct action winning gains) was done in defiance of the Unite leadership who labelled the rank-and-file cancerous.

    What do the "moderate" unions win for members? How has the NAHT helped slow down Michael Gove's attacks on teachers, or Prospect slow Francis Maude's on civil servants? The answer is that they haven't, and you can't negotiate with someone unwilling to talk, acting out of ideology.

    But then that goes for you as well as for the Tories. Your declaration of what's better is borne of tribal loyalty for Labour and bitter hatred for an ill-defined "far left," devoid of any actual analysis of what's happening on the ground.

    If I'm wrong, please enlighten me as to what your strategy to fight the ongoing attacks is. Other than hope Labour don't live up to their past, their public statements and their structural role as offering the same bullshit but with the occasional pretence that they care about us, that is...