I’ve no doubt that the legendarily foul mouthed Paul Dacre and his obedient hackery at the Daily Mail have no problem understanding what Trades Unions do, how they interact with employers, their members, and the general public, and the kinds of roles they perform. The thought that this information might be transmitted to the readers, though, would be sadly misplaced.
Similarly with the roles performed by Union representatives in the workplace, which the Mail would not bother with, unless they affect anywhere in London, and their actions take place in the Education sector. This means they may inconvenience Mail hacks, which is the most heinous crime imaginable. So when a Union rep covering schools in North London became news, the Mail was incandescent.
“Union is PAYING teachers to strike: Parents' outrage as NUT bankrolls walkouts over official who hasn't taught for 14 years” thundered the paper this morning, promoting the story to front page lead. But Julie Davies, the full-time Union rep who is the subject of the dispute in Haringey, is not a Union official. She is a qualified teacher who at present works on Union duties.
This is not a difficult concept to grasp, but the Mail has decided that it does not believe its readers should be allowed to grasp it. So the article goes on to call Ms Davies an “activist” – twice – and she isn’t one of those either. It does, however, concede that her time is paid for by a number of schools, although it does not allow readers to see whether this is a cost-effective arrangement.
That is important: the Mail is quite happy to tell that “the Department for Education insists that ‘taxpayers’ money should not be funding trade union reps who spend little or no time actually teaching ... It has published guidance which aims to ensure reps continue to teach alongside carrying out their union duties”. So what are the comparative costs of each school having a part time rep instead?
And the main point at issue – not that the Mail, nor the DfE, is going to let it slip – is that Ms Davies has been elected by NUT members – her fellow teachers – to be their representative Strangely, the article does not mention this. One wonders if the Mail is trying to suggest that teachers just strike for the sheer hell of it. Instead, the suggestion is made that they are being bribed to strike, which they are not.
Yes, parents are unhappy, and yes, they are being financially inconvenienced by the strike action. But there are two sides to this dispute, and had Ms Davies not been suspended, there would have been no dispute. As the NUT’s London regional secretary has said, “We cannot contemplate a situation in which an employer vetoes our representative. We would cease to be a free and independent union”.
Democracy. Only to be used in accordance with the dictates of the Daily Mail.