Union modernisation fund operating guidelines published

Final proposals for the operation of the government’s union modernisation fund were today published by employment relations minister Gerry Sutcliffe.

The proposals set out how the fund, set up to help unions improve efficiency and worth between £5m and £10m, will operate.

Under the proposals:

  • a seven-member independent Supervisory Board will be appointed to assess bids and make recommendations on those that should receive support

  • bids will be invited on a number of diverse themes, ranging from improving communications with members, to preparing lay representatives for their new role under information and consultation regulations

  • unions must state how their modernisation strategies seek to build relationships with employers

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

Sutcliffe said: “Modern, efficient workplaces are a vital part of our thriving economy. It is essential that unions operate in a way that reflects modern working practices, and this money will help them achieve this aim.”

The fund will support projects in areas such as:

  • training union representatives in areas such as business and people management, to help promote the development of high-performance workplaces

  • reviewing internal union structures to support more efficient management systems

  • enabling unions to broaden their dialogue with members by increasing the use of the internet and other new technologies.

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; or representing individuals in disputes with a particular employer.

However, when Personnel Today revealed the extra funding last August, the then TUC president, Roger Lyons, said it could provide difficulties for employers.

“We will be more informed, more professional and more able to cope with the new pressures. I’m not certain if employers put up the kind of people who can handle that,” he said.

It is expected that the fund will be formally launched and a first call for bids issued later in the summer.

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