Legal threat on union exclusion
The biggest teachers’ union in England and Wales is taking legal action against
ministers over its exclusion from talks on working conditions.
The National Union of Teachers says Education Secretary Alan Johnson
misled Parliament about including “all the interested parties”. The row involves the
Social Partnership involving the government and most education unions, but not the NUT.
Mr. Johnson said he did not wish to comment in detail on the NUT’s action.
The NUT has never belonged because it disagrees with provisions in the
deal on reducing teachers’ workloads that let classroom assistants – who are not
qualified teachers – take lessons.
It also disagrees with the inclusion of performance-related pay in the
recommendations of the independent body which advises ministers on teachers’ conditions
in England and Wales, the School Teachers Review Body.
The decision to seek judicial review of the government’s actions was
announced by the NUT general secretary, Steve Sinnott – to cheers from delegates at the
end of his union’s annual conference, in Harrogate.
Shortly after Mr. Sinnott spoke, Mr. Johnson was
praising the other big classroom union, the NASUWT, for its involvement in the Social
At its annual conference, getting underway in Belfast, he said:
“Trust and co-operation may be less stimulating than a state of permanent hostility, but
it is certainly more rewarding for those who are strong enough and confident enough to
engage. “It is certainly no place for the weak and faint-hearted,” he said.
Mr. Sinnott told his members: “The NUT’s exclusion from education
policy matters is an outrage.”
The review body had recommended a new statement on the role and
responsibilities of teachers be drawn up “in discussion with all the interested
parties”, he said. It had intended that this should include the NUT. “Alan Johnson
told the House of Commons that he accepted that recommendation. But he didn’t mean it.
He changed the recommendation. He would exclude the NUT as the NUT has been excluded since
Talking to journalists afterwards, Mr. Sinnott said: “We think we
have got a clear case here that the secretary of state has said one thing to Parliament
and done another. “That’s wrong. He has misled Parliament.”
The NUT has also reminded the government that the last time it took it
to court, it won.
In 2000 the then education secretary David Blunkett was judged to have
acted illegally over the introduction of performance-related pay for teachers in England
The High Court said Mr. Blunkett had improperly bypassed Parliament and
the Welsh Assembly as well as the School Teachers Review Body.
Mr. Johnson said he did not want to comment in detail on the NUT’s
action. “They have written in terms of they are seeking a judicial review I believe and
we are taking legal advice on that,” he said. “In terms of pay and conditions we
consult with the NUT. They are part of the consultation process.”
Story from BBC NEWS:
By Gary Eason, BBC News, at the NUT conference
* NASUWT – The National Association of
Schoolmasters Union of Women Teachers is the largest union representing teachers and
headteachers throughout the UK.