What is a trade union?

A trade union is an organised association of workers in a trade or profession, formed to protect and further their rights and interests.

What is a trade union?

For some, a union is a place of learning, training and sharing – a family. Members volunteer and train to support their colleagues, they contribute through discussion groups to shape the views and the opinions of the union, and they influence the responses made on their behalf.

For others, union membership is rather like an insurance policy – something they hope to never need but essential when things go wrong.

Unions provide support and advice over the phone, through websites and directly via casework, and we recommend everybody who works in the education sector joins a trade union for those occasions when you need one, such as:

  • allegations in the workplace;
  • workload issues;
  • target setting and appraisals;
  • bullying and harassment;
  • sickness and absence;
  • pay and contractual issues;
  • parental leave;
  • redundancy; and
  • assault.

Everyone's case is unique, and we strive to ensure that our members don’t receive a one-size-fits-all solution.

Collectively, trade unions work to better working conditions for their members, and bargain with the Government for better pay for teachers and support staff in education. We are on a number of national negotiating bodies that focus on primary assessment, GCSE & A Level exams, as well as quality and standards providers such as Ofsted (England), Estyn (Wales), Education Scotland (Scotland) and ETI (Northern Ireland). 

If you experience any difficulties, it is reassuring to know that help is only a phone call away. And if your issue requires more support, our team will step in and handle all the agitating, the arguing and the negotiating for you, leaving you with the confidence and security of knowing that we are there to support you.

Why should I join a trade union?

In workplaces where staff are members of a union, they can benefit from the strength and security that comes from working together to tackle issues that arise whilst at work. Trades union have a long history in the UK of working to improve health and safety, working conditions and pay.  But not all unions are the same – just like the learning styles of children, there are several different unions to support those working in education – some for leaders, some for teachers, some for support staff.

Over the past few years, there has been an increase in the number of teachers not remaining in the profession beyond five years. Additionally, teachers have been leaving the profession early and taking early retirement because of drivers such as the frequent changes to education policy, increasing workload, and Ofsted/Estyn/Education Scotland and ITE, as well as the intensive accountability regime. Together this has led to a large decrease in union membership.

However, in the current climate, because of the pressures of workload, risk of redundancy and health and safety concerns, it is more important than ever to be in a union, especially when working in the education and childcare sectors. 

We have anecdotal evidence of new teachers and childcarers, who already have the burden of student loans to pay off, being told by mortgage advisers and lenders that union membership is a ‘non-essential cost’. We would say that they need support from a union, because if they face losing their job for whatever reason, then their home is at risk.

The major benefits of being a member of a union are:

  • better working conditions;
  • better pay, with employees at unionised workplaces earning around 12% more than non-unionised workplaces;
  • better health and safety measures in place in your workplace;
  • training and CPD opportunities to develop your skills and career;
  • volunteering opportunities as Union Learning Representatives;
  • advice on your legal employment rights; and
  • advice on issues at work.

You can read more about our customer-focused approach and our core values here.

How do trade unions work?

Members pay subscription fees toward their union, and then if something goes wrong in the workplace or you require advice, then you can contact your union for support. Unfortunately, unions are unable to help (in most cases) with issues that arise prior to membership, which is why we advocate that all those working in education and childcare should join a union. 

What are my rights with joining a union?

Individually, you have a right to:

  • choose to join or not join a specific union;
  • decide to stay a member of or leave a union;
  • belong to the union you want to be a member of, even if it is not the one your employer negotiates with; and
  • belong to multiple unions.

Your employer/agency is not allowed to:

  • insist you join or leave a specific union;
  • threaten or treat you unfairly for being part of a trade union;
  • refuse to employ you for being a member of a trade union;
  • dismiss or put you up for redundancy because of your union membership or taking part in union activities; and
  • cannot refuse you opportunities for being a member of a union.

If you have any specific queries about being a member, or would like to discuss the benefits in more detail, contact us on 01332 372 337 or email us at membershipderby@community-tu.org. Alternaitvely, you can request a brochure here.

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