The National Education Union (NEU) has been forced to cough up more than £150,000 to three other unions after its ballot of support staff last year was deemed to breach member recruitment rules.
A Trades Union Congress panel ruled that the ballot and associated campaign breached its principle that member unions cannot “knowingly and actively take into membership existing or recent members of another union”.
The move also breached a principle relating to “actions that would have the effect of undermining the position of an established union”, the TUC ruled, after a complaint from Unison, the GMB and Unite.
NEU, the largest education union with more than 450,000 members, was ordered to pay the three unions £153,952, with £85,161 of that going to Unison.
The NEU is not recognised for collective bargaining on behalf of support staff, something that happens through the National Joint Council (NJC). It has now had to publish a statement stating it is “not seeking and will not seek recognition to collectively bargain on behalf of support staff”.
The union has also been forced to pledge “not to undertake any campaign or organising activity on behalf of support staff that could be construed as infringing on the established collective bargaining arrangements that exist without the express agreement” of the other unions.
Ruling contradicts conference motion
However, it pointed out this directly contradicted a motion passed at its conference this year.
The motion instructed its leadership to “seek, at the earliest opportunity, recognition and negotiating rights for our support staff members” and “end the undertaking not to actively or knowingly recruit support staff”.
“Because of this difference, the NEU will be seeking meetings with Unison Unite and GMB to explore how we can resolve the contradiction between these positions.”
Unison, the GMB and Unite are balloting support staff members for strike action in response to the latest NJC offer.
The NEU said it had “expressed solidarity” with the campaign, adding it wanted to “talk with them about balloting our support staff members to make that solidarity very practical”.
A spokesperson added it was “in contact with them about how to campaign together on school funding, as well as how to set up a mechanism to ensure the views of NEU support staff members are taken into account in NJC pay negotiations”.
In a joint statement, the three support staff unions said they “would have preferred not to have had to bring the formal complaint … but are satisfied with the outcome”.
A Unison spokesperson said: “The dispute between the unions is over.
“That paves the way for all the unions to get back to working together again, starting with the joint lobby over schools funding next week.”