Strength from diversity

9 Jan

Letter in Early Years Educator, January 2017

Strength in diversity

Kate Wall and Jade Lampert (Focus: “Unions in the early years”, EYE, November 2016) provide a comprehensive, detailed and well-argued analysis of the issues challenging the early years sector, the role of unions and the benefits of union membership.

However, their call for a “centralized” or “national” union does not afford the early years and childcare workforce choice or recognise the strength of a model where different unions work together, as the education and childcare unions often do where there is common cause.

It is interesting to note that the authors suggest one of the unions to become the “centralized” union, rather than all the unions merging to form a new one.

Different unions, while sharing a common purpose, operate in different ways in their dealings with politicians and the media, so providing choice. Voice, for example, was founded on the principle of not taking industrial action.

Diversity of views is positive, not negative. As NASUWT General Secretary Chris Keates once said about teachers’ unions, it is better for ministers to receive six letters from unions on issues such as pay, rather than one letter with six signatures.

Big is not necessarily beautiful. Not everybody wants to be part of a monolithic organisation. Size is not an indicator of an ability to respond to a changing landscape. Smaller, more specialized organisations are often more agile than those that represent  “fragmented” workforces from a huge range of different professions, skills and trades – most of which have no connection with, or understanding of, childcare or education professionals – working for assorted and dissimilar employers across the public and private sectors.  

Deborah Lawson, General Secretary, Voice: the union for education professionals 


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