Minister names board to run Union Modernisation Fund

Trade and industry secretary Alan Johnson has named the members of the board that will assess bids from unions for the Union Modernisation Fund.

The government is to make £4.5m available to unions over the next two years to ‘adapt to meet the challenges of the modern workplace’.

Bill Connor, a member of the Central Arbitration Committee and former general secretary of shop-workers union Usdaw, will chair the supervisory board, assessing bids and making recommendations to the secretary of state.

The board has seven members, including outgoing TUC president Jeannie Drake; professor Willy Brown from the Low Pay Commission; and Judith Hackitt, director-general of the Chemical Industries Association.

Johnson said: “With any period of change, the role of trade unions – providing advice, advocacy and support in the workplace – is critical.”

“But it is also a challenge for the unions to adapt as their membership changes, along with their needs and aspirations,” he said.

“For example, nowadays the average working woman is more likely to be in a union than her male counterpart.”

The fund, created by the Employment Relations Act 2004, will not be used for:

  • the day-to-day work of unions
  • supporting recruitment drives
  • advancing a union’s position in collective bargaining or trade disputes
  • representing individuals in disputes with a particular employer.

But it will support:

  • training union representatives, in areas such as business and people management, to help promote the development of high performance workplaces
  • reviewing internal union structures and organisation to support more efficient management systems within unions
  • enabling unions to broaden their dialogue with members by greater use of the internet and other new technologies.

Unions must state how their modernisation strategies seek to build relationships with employers.

The government will provide up to £200,000 toward each selected project, with larger grants considered in exceptional circumstances. Unions will normally be expected to provide 50% of project costs through matched funding.

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