Every year, when we publish data on the number of full-time union representatives whose salaries are paid for by taxpayers, various individuals in our public conversation tell us that we’re just being sensationalist. Indeed they tell us¸ as the National Union of Teachers have, that “facility time for trade union duties represents excellent value for money” and that it is a crucial part of “good education practice.”
Well, perhaps they could explain how that makes the slightest bit of sense as news breaks that Julie Davies, an NUT rep, will lead a walkout at two schools in North London this week, where she teaches English.
Or rather, taught English. The thing is, Mrs Davies hasn’t actually taught at the school for fourteen years, instead enjoying taxpayer-funded “facility time” and operating as a full-time union worker. Amusingly, Mrs Davies still describes herself as a teacher on her twitter profile page. If a teacher doesn’t teach, one wonders whether they are in fact a teacher…
Far from being a co-operative union rep with the best interests of children at heart, Mrs Davies appears to have spent most of her time since 2000 pursuing a personal agenda. Head teachers in Haringey, where she works, have accused her of “confrontation”, “obfuscation” and encouraging “a climate of mistrust.” Davies has been suspended as a result, and she has therefore called on union members to walk out. The High Court has already thrown out her claim that the Council doesn’t have the power to suspend her, but that hasn’t stopped Mrs Davies pursuing her case.
There is nothing to stop union representatives working for their members at schools, hospitals or anywhere else. But they should do it on their own time and on the union’s tab, not on taxpayers’. It’s particularly galling when parents are forced to cough up for union representatives who are actively disrupting their children’s education, as is the case in Haringey. It is estimated that some 3,000 children will be affected by the strike action.
Presumably the National Union of Teachers will condemn Mrs Davies’ actions – after all, the Union lists as its raison d’être a desire to “improve the system of state education in the interests of both children and teachers.” It’s hard to see how a walkout based on one individual’s personal axe to grind fits either the former or the latter. We await their response.