Thursday, 14 February 2008

Part Of The Union

Oh, you won’t get me, I’m part of the Union,
You won’t get me, I’m part of the Union,
You won’t get me, I’m part of the Union,
‘Til the day I die,
‘Til the day I die.

The Strawbs (1973)

Sadly those days have long gone - unlike most professions today, a teacher has no other agency that can provide support. The LEA possess a wealth of expertise in so many fields; law, welfare, human resource - but that is not available to you - without your union support, you are really out in the cold !

I hope that your union can help and provide the support that you need. You must keep control - remember that this is your life - if they get it wrong, it will be a mistake that will last forever.

Understand that this is a partnership, founded on trust, faith and commitment. Make certain that good communication is established and maintained throughout the proceedings.

Realize that you are about to have your career taken - years at university / college and years of experience are about to become worthless.

In my case, that is 30 years of teaching. I still had another 10 years until retirement - £350,000 npv plus enhanced pension - remember that is what is being stolen - and that makes no allowance for the destruction of your health. Your character will be blemished, flawed - CRB records are permanent - even if you are cleared, your records remain - police and CRB - and, worst case - you might face a jail sentence !

My union failed to support me. Their initial response was procedural - they could not offer any advice until I had received and returned forms - rules are rules ! Later they told me that suspension was a neutral act and that I should view it as a paid holiday ! I asked so many questions and received no answers :

“What happens if / when I get arrested ?”
“A solicitor will meet you at the police station.”
“Can I speak to him now ?”
“No, only at the police station.”
“Do you have any literature ?”
“No !”

It was all so matter of fact. “We deal with hundreds of these cases every year.” This is a terrible indictment - it is outrageous that a union should be so complacent that it allows this moral outrage to continue. Worse too when you consider that it is happening to you - do you care and does it help to know that there are hundreds of other teachers in the same position ?

In the end, I was forced to seek support from a firm of solicitors. I was advised to look for firms possessing specialist knowledge of the education systems rather than approach local solicitors. Later, as my case moved towards disciplinary action then I needed legal representation from Employment Law specialists.

I did make two more attempts to gain support from my union - just before my first hearing. This representative made enquiries and recommended that he should be permitted to negotiate severance terms ! That was good - not guilty - but let us all lie down and die !

Be wary of the fact that your union representative will be well known by the LEA and possibly your school. I sensed that the LEA have their ‘favourites’ - in many ways, it is like an ‘old boys’ club and I could picture them as ‘drinking buddies’ - not what you want when your life is on the line !

The second contact was even worse - he trivialized all that I had been through and the actions that I had taken. So, despite the costs, I will be represented by a professional and I feel much easier within myself.