Exclusive: NUT and ATL merger talks confirmed but Chris Keates wary of professional unity

Six unions are stronger than one unified organisation, says NASUWT general secretary

The leader of one of England’s biggest teaching unions has spoken out against plans to create a new merged classroom “super union”, confirmed to TES this week.

After months of official denials, the ATL teaching union finally admitted that it is in talks with the NUT teaching union about “forming a new union for education professionals”.

Chris Keates, NASUWT general secretary, said that she would “respect the decision of sister trade unions”, but she cautioned against the impact of professional unity, claiming that it was “better” for ministers to receive six letters from unions on issues such as pay, rather than one with six signatures.

Next weekend, delegates at the NUT annual conference in Brighton will decide whether they want the merger discussions with the ATL to continue, TES can reveal. If both unions get behind the proposal, special conferences could be held in the autumn to consider whether to ballot members.

‘A single national classroom union’

The move would bring the prospect of a single national classroom union one step closer – after decades of campaigning – if the NASUWT was prepared to cooperate.

But Ms Keates said that her members had not been “banging down [their] door” about professional unity. “The fact is, it’s not an issue among our members,” she said.

It has long been the NUT’s official policy that a single union would best represent the profession. Now the moderate ATL’s leadership is also considering it as a realistic option.

Mary Bousted, ATL general secretary, said that merger talks had come in response to an “ever-changing education landscape” where members face “intolerable workload and stress”.

This is an edited version of an article in the 18 March edition of TES. Subscribers can read the full article here. This week’s TES magazine is available in all good newsagents. To download the digital edition, Android users can click here and iOS users can click here

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