McAvoy issues warning to far-left activists

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The Independent Online

Education Editor

Far-left delegates who defeated proposals for greater union democracy may be reported to the ordinary members they represent, a teachers' leader warned yesterday.

Doug McAvoy, general secretary of the National Union of Teachers, warned the union's annual conference that he would press on with plans for one- member one-vote which were supported by more than 80 per cent of ordinary members in a ballot. Outside the conference he said that details of delegates' voting might be sent to the union's local associations.

In his speech to the Cardiff conference, he said: "I believe that our members' faith in the union will transcend the adverse publicity that this rejection has attracted. The voice of the members will be heard and they will insist that their union listens to their views."

He said the union would forfeit any influence it might have over a new Labour government or the parties' election manifestos unless they got to grips with reality. "If we appear obdurate and devoid of any willingness to consider new idea then we will forfeit any right to influence the actions of the next government."

He argued for a new body to represent all six teachers' unions which would be created after two or more of them had agreed to dissolve. Those who had spoken against unity in conference feared that their policies would not be acceptable in a larger body. "The logic of that assertion is that they are not representative of the vast majority of teachers," he said.

He attacked the Government, which he described as "the most unpopular in history", and which he said was trying to dismantle comprehensive education. And he defended teachers against the assertion by Chris Woodhead, the Chief Inspector of Schools, that 15,000 teachers should be sacked. "The union does not accept that this wild claim has any foundation in fact. The truth is that teachers are not failing their pupils. It is the Government that is failing the nation, the children and teachers."

Will Reese from Coventry, a member of the Socialist Teachers' Alliance, said the debate on union democracy had been a diversion and must be put behind them. The union must unite around the policies adopted by the conference.

Delegates passed a motion threatening local strikes if any teachers lose jobs or suffer worse working conditions because of the nursery voucher scheme. They fear some teachers in state nursery schools may be made redundant if the scheme leads to a big expansion of private nursery schools.