Monday 26 October 2020

The Tory Attack on Unionlearn

We're in the middle of a pandemic. Jobs are evaporating and many won't be coming back once a semblance of normality resumes. With millions out of work, a lot of people are looking at retraining to switch careers. In any normal country, the tertiary education sector would be there to provide new skills packages and courses to help manage this transition. Unfortunately, this isn't our lot. We live in Tory Britain.

Unionlearn receives £11m/year from the government for widening access to retraining and education opportunities via trade unions. And by any measure, the scheme is an amazing success. According to the Department for Education's own figures, for every pound invested there is an economic return of £12.30. If it came stamped with the imprimatur of some outsourcing giant or a Tory-friendly entrepreneur, the government would sing its praises and throw more money at the programme. It doesn't and so naturally, the government are scrapping it.

It doesn't make economic sense, but it make perfect sense in class terms. To have workers organised as workers looking out for their training and providing opportunities for it is too much self-activity, too much a case of understanding their needs better than the captains of industry and doing something about it. And so out comes the plug, despite Unionlearn ultimately benefiting the bottom lines of those funding the Tory party.

Sean Dixon, a learning rep for USDAW has launched the petition below. Obviously readers should sign it, but also bring this attack to the attention of union branches and constituency parties, as well as Labour MPs. The Tories are vulnerable and a strong campaign from the labour movement speaking and striking as one can force them to retreat.

Last week the government announced cuts to the Union Learning Fund. For more than 20 years it has supported union learning projects, so working people could access education in the workplace. It’s changed thousands of lives.

Sean has started a petition to save union learning. Please add your name and support this important campaign.

I've seen first-hand the difference union learning has made to hundreds of my workmates and friends. So when I heard the news that the government planned to cut the Union Learning Fund, I was devastated.

It’s impossible to list all the benefits of union learning I’ve seen, but I can honestly say it’s changed lives. Our training around mental health helped normalise talking about it at work. People who missed out at school learnt English and maths skills they’ll have for life. And those who came to learning centres and engaged in courses came back over and over again, earning apprenticeships and higher qualifications.

At this crucial time, cuts to the Union Learning Fund make no sense. Our government should be investing in programs like this, not cutting them.

When I heard about the cuts, I thought of everyone I’d supported as a union learning rep and what they would have missed out on without this program. I thought of the workers getting our country through this crisis, who deserve an opportunity to access education and learn new skills in the workplace.

We need to show how many people care about investing in skills and education for working people.

Can you sign my petition calling on the government to reverse their decision and not cut the Union Learning Fund?

Sign the petition here:

In Unity,

Sean Dixon
Union Learning Rep

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