IN this #HeartUnions week (Feb 8-14) Hackney Labour stands in solidarity with fight to save the Union Learning Fund

Hackney Labour Group of Councillors has passed a motion in solidarity with Trade Unions and their fight to save the Union Learning Fund, and agreed to campaign on the issue.

The Union Learning Fund was set up in 1998 under the last Labour Government to support trade unions to widen access to learning and training in workplaces for both union members and non-members. The fund supports workplace projects across England, and is coordinated by the TUC.

However the TUC was informed last year that this Tory Government intends to end government funding for the scheme from March 2021 ─ cutting the access of 200,000 workers every year to training or learning through the ULF.

Mayor Philip Glanville

Philip Glanville, the Labour & Co-operative directly elected Mayor of Hackney said: “The UK is facing the biggest recession out of any developed nation and the subsequent threat of an unemployment crisis. Hackney residents will need every opportunity they can get to retrain or upskill. That’s why Hackney Labour continues to develop award-winning jobs and training opportunities for residents.

“But Tories claim to want to “level-up” Britain while scraping this vital offer that helps workers. At the start of this #HeartUnions week I urge the Government to continue to fund Union Learning and express my solidarity with trade unions like the GMB who are fighting to save it. Programmes like this are why I am asking everyone to join a union and keep up the fight to improve workplace rights and reduce inequality.”

Vaughan West, Regional Organiser, GMB Trade Union said: “The Union Learning Fund, which has been supported by Unions and Employers alike since 1998 provides real opportunities for employers to upskill their workforce and employees get recognised qualifications that can transform their lives.

“The government came to power just over a year ago, promising to level up, so their intention of ending the fund in the middle of a pandemic and rising unemployment appears to be nothing more than economic suicide. It’s not too late for them to change their mind and the GMB along with the Mayor of Hackney urges the Chancellor, Rishi Sunak and the Secretary of State for BEIM, Kwasi Kwartang, to think again and reinstate the fund.”

The motion passed by the Hackney Labour Group at their December meeting can be found below:


Hackney Labour Group of Councillors notes:

1. On Tuesday 6 October, the TUC received a letter from the Department for Education saying that ministers have decided to end the Union Learning Fund from March 2021.

2. The Union Learning Fund (ULF) was set up in 1998 under the last Labour Government to support trade unions to widen access to learning and training in workplaces for both union members and non-members. The fund supports workplace projects across England, and is coordinated by the TUC.

3. Each year around 200,000 workers are supported into learning or training with union support through the ULF and the TUC, including Hackney staff members. These learners undertake all sorts of job-relevant learning and training, including basic literacy and numeracy, ICT skills, apprenticeships and traineeships, vocational training, continuing professional development and many other informal and formal courses.

4. In 2019–20, the ULF was worth £12m. If upheld this decision will effectively end union-brokered skills training, and will undermine key government skills and retraining priorities at a crucial moment for our economy.

This Group understands that:

1. Union learning reaches people that other DfE programmes do not reach.

2. There is an independent evaluation of the Union Learning Fund every two years. It was most recently evaluated by the University of Exeter in 2018. They spoke to 2,459 learners, and found:
 Over two-thirds (68 per cent) of learners with no previous qualifications got a qualification.
 47 per cent of those with entry level or level 1 qualifications got a qualification at a higher level.
 Four in five (80 per cent) said they had developed skills that they could transfer to a new job.
 Two in three (62 per cent) said their new skills made them more effective in their current job.
 One in five (19 per cent) said they had been promoted or given increased responsibility and one in 10 (11 per cent) got a pay rise.

3. The 2018 independent evaluation found that union learning provided excellent value for money:
 For every £1 spent on the Union Learning Fund, there is a return of £12.30: £7.60 to the worker, £4.70 to the employer.
 The Union Learning Fund delivers an estimated net contribution to the economy of more than £1.4bn as a result of a boost to jobs, wages and productivity.
 The return to the exchequer (through reduced spending on welfare benefits and other factors resulting from the boost to jobs and wages) is £3.57 for each £1 spent on the Union Learning Fund.
 The £12m government funding levered in an additional £54m from employers, unions and training providers in 2019–20.

4. The government has said it will put reskilling workers at the heart of its economic recovery plans after the pandemic. In September 2020, the government announced a new fully funded entitlement to achieve a first level 3 qualification, delivered through the National Skills Fund. Union learning is ideally placed to support this aspiration, in three ways:
 directly, through delivering relevant level 3 courses to workplace learners, which is already a core function of the Union Learning Fund and was assessed as highly effective by the 2018 independent evaluation
 directly, through enabling those with basic skills to learn and develop, putting them in a position to progress to level 3 skills

5. Successive governments of all parties have valued this role – and have supported the Union Learning Fund. As government funding, it is paid as a contract and is subject to stringent monitoring requirements. Union Learning Fund money can only be spent on the direct costs of getting working people into learning and skills training, and the associated costs of delivering this programme.

6. ULF projects adapted quickly to delivering online learning and training for workers during the pandemic and have actually surpassed the number of outcomes expected by government since the beginning of April.

This Group resolves to:
1. Express its public support for the continuation of the Union Learning Fund
2. Raise this issue with our local MPs and encourage them to call on the Government to reverse its decision


9 February 2021

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