CBI drops its opposition to union training funds

The CBI has given its tentative support to the new £10m union modernisation fund – having previously declared that it was “fundamentally opposed” to the scheme.

The fund, designed to support innovation and development in the trade unions, is now open to bids from unions.

When details were first announced last year, business leaders voiced fears that money would be used to help unions recruit more members or mount campaigns against employers.

At the time CBI director general, Sir Digby Jones, called on the government to scrap the fund and said the CBI was “fundamentally opposed” to cash going to “an individual lobby group”.

An online poll at the time on PersonnelToday.com showed that 56% of readers agreed with Jones.

However, the CBI deputy director general, John Cridland, told Personnel Today that employers had been working closely with the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) and was now “broadly satisfied” that unions would be stopped from using the money to increase membership. “The question of whether it would just be money for old rope has been dealt with,” he said.

He added that the £10m on offer over several years was “a relatively small amount in the scheme of things”.

Gerry Sutcliffe, employment relations minister, tried to reassure employers and said the fund was strictly to help unions “get to grips with the major challenges they face in a modern, changing workplace”.

The TUC said the fund was necessary to help unions deal more effectively with employers.

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