Funding disquiet over union academy plans

News
that the Government is to create and fund a Trade
Union Academy
to train union representatives to university level has provoked a huge response
from the HR industry.

In
the last issue of Personnel Today,
TUC president Roger Lyons exclusively revealed that the initiative would be
announced at the TUC Conference later this month and would be paid for by the
unions and the Department for Education and Skills under the union
modernisation fund.

He
said the university-level academy would ensure that trade unionists were more
informed and more professional.

"I’m
not certain if employers put up the kind of people who can handle that,"
he said.

The
question posed on PersonnelToday.com – ‘Should the Government fund the training
of union representatives?’ – attracted more than 3,000 votes. As 94 per cent
voted ‘yes’, another question should perhaps be asked: ‘Was this an organised
campaign by unionists?’

David
Marriott, regional learning officer for the East Midlands
branch of the Public and Commercial Services Union, said: "Government
funding should be provided especially where reps are providing services to
employees (including non-members) that help to meet the Government’s agenda.

"This
is especially true in the arena of lifelong learning. Union learning reps are
encouraging all employees to think about learning, often gaining the skills
that help them to fill the gaps that have been identified as restricting the
economic and industrial progress that growth depends on," said Marriott.

"Where
statutory rights have been established in government departments, managers
place restrictions on our use of time and facilities. We are expected to
produce evidence of our work while being faced with these restrictions and lack
of co-operation from the employer.

"Government
funding for training should produce a greater number of reps to help provide a
level of service to our members, other employees and their employers. This in
turn will boost the economic performance and efficiency of both public and
private sector organisations.

One
union official commented that it depended on how the programme was implemented.

"In
principle I am for the training of union representatives," she said.
"But we have to carefully look at the process at appointing union reps. Most trade unions have a problem with the make up of [these]
representatives. Black minority, ethnic, young and female members are often not
elected as union reps."

Chris,
a member of the Transport & General Workers’ Union,
commented: "Due to the previous [Conservative] government and the woman
who was the head of it at one time, the unions lost a lot of their powers. This
benefited all these company bosses, because they are all conservative, and
lined their pockets with more money at the expense of their employees.

"I
fully back [the move to government-funded training], and the Government should
give unions back their powers as well, so these company bosses start treating
their employees like human beings and not robots."

However,
an engineer at an aerospace company believes unions have the funds to pay their
own way.

"Let’s
be straight," he said, "it’s not the
Government that would fund it, but the long-suffering taxpayer – us. Surely if
we are paying enough in our union dues to pay for the likes of Derek Simpson to
have a expensive jolly like his helicopter trip to Glastonbury,
then the union can quite easily afford the cost of training reps."

Another
man e-mailed: "Union reps are a fundamental part of the workplace, and as
such they should receive the full backing of the Government, to enable them to
fulfil their role to the best of their ability."

A
personnel administrator in the medical sector said: "It is not right that
taxpayers fund this training of trade union representatives. This training is readily
available in all sorts of educational establishments and all reps have to do is
apply."

By
Michael Millar

Look out for your copy of Training Magazine

Training Magazine is published with this
edition of Personnel Today. The
September issue features an interview with Chris Trinick,
the proactive chief executive of Lancashire County Council, on why he has put
management development at the heart of the modernisation agenda. It also covers
apprenticeships and the real impact of home-based learning.  To subscribe visit www.reedbusiness.co.uk/products/training.asp

 

 

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