Voice: separating fact from fiction
Unicorns, fairies at the bottom of the garden and ‘Voice isn’t a proper union’ are all fantasy yet some people still think that these myths are true. This is where we separate the fact from the fiction.
‘Voice isn’t a proper union’
Voice is independent from the S/TUC but it is a trade union registered with the Certification Officer (www.certoffice.org). As an organisation that satisfies the statutory definition of a trade union, Voice is required to comply with the various statutory provisions set out in the Trade Union and Labour Relations (Consolidation) Act 1992 (as amended).
‘Voice can’t help you because it isn’t recognised and can’t negotiate’
Voice is fully involved in government consultative and negotiating structures – it is a member of The Education Partnership (previously Social Partnership) with other unions and the DfE in England, and the Scottish Negotiating Committee for Teachers (SNCT), and meets regularly with ministers of the Scottish Government and Welsh Assembly Government.
Voice is also recognised by local authorities across the UK and many members are involved in those authorities’ consultative and negotiating structures.
Recognition is only relevant to issues of ‘collective bargaining’. Individual employees have the right to have specific representation from the union of their choice on an individual basis.
‘Voice is weak because it doesn’t strike’
Education sector strikes are counter-productive; they have a damaging impact on pupils’ education and inconvenience and alienate their parents. Voice is successful because we believe in the power of negotiation, not conflict – the force of argument not the argument of force. Recent improvements in teachers’ pay and conditions, such as the Workforce Agreement, were achieved through negotiation not strikes. When did a government last give in to strike action? (Further information on Voice and industrial action.)
‘You’d be better off joining a bigger, stronger union’
Quite the opposite. Our strength is that we’re big enough to get things done, but small enough to deliver a tailored, personal service to each one of our members. Also, because we’re totally independent from the TUC and all political parties, we’re not obliged to toe a party line. (See our Core Values.)
‘We don’t have anything to do with trade unions in this nursery so Voice can’t represent anyone here.’
- You have the right:
- to choose to join, or remain a member of, a trade union;
- to belong to a trade union of your choice, even if it’s different from the one recognised by your employer;
- to belong to more than one trade union; and
- not to be penalised, dismissed, subjected to a ‘detriment’ (such as not being given a pay increase, discriminated against in promotion or training opportunities or threatened with dismissal) or selected for redundancy for being a member of an independent trade union.
You also have the legal right to be accompanied at a disciplinary, grievance or capability hearing by another person who can be a trade union officer or representative.
The right to union representation exists even where the union is not recognised by the employer. If you have difficulties obtaining a representative in time, you have the right to ask the employer to postpone the hearing for a reasonable time. Where an employer unreasonably refuses to allow a representative to attend the hearing, the employee may have recourse to an Employment Tribunal for compensation.
‘Voice’s subscription rates are higher than other unions’
Look again: we have a range of rates to reflect the wide professional spectrum of our membership. We always strive to make sure that the level of service we give every one of our members is as high as possible and this requires a high level of staff resource. (See our Membership information)
Do let us know of any myths about Voice that you’ve heard.