York Central MP Rachael Maskell has spoken out against Government plans to scrap the Union Learning Fund (ULF) in what appears to be a politically-motivated attack on trade unions’ ability to up-skill workers, provide opportunities for trade unionists to learn and create new opportunities across a wide range of employment sectors.
Established in 1998, the Union Learning Fund has supported over 50 unions in over 700 workplaces to engage with employers through Workplace Learning Centres and the signing of learning agreements, supporting around 200,000 workers every year to access learning. Supported by some of the biggest employers in the UK including Muller, British Steel, Tesco, the Food & Drink Federation and Arla Foods, the ULF has been one of the great success stories of the trade union movement, encouraging a positive relationship between trade unions and employers, and providing tangible benefits for both.
The Government has pledged to scrap the Union Learning Fund from March 2021, stating in October 2020 that the “Commitment to the Union Learning Fund has never been open-ended and the current funding is due to cease at the end of March 2021. We have always been clear any future funding would depend on the Government’s Spending Review.”
Speaking in Parliament on 18th November, 2020, Rachael Maskell MP stated that:
“Unions invest because that is what they do. Unions invest in health & safety reps because they want working people to be safer at work. They invest in workplace reps because they know that better workplaces are more productive workplaces and provide more secure labour. Unions invest in union learning because they unlock the potential of others, give them life chances that they have never had, help them discover their skills and talents, and open up to them a new world of possibilities…Before the Minister takes out her pen I want her, in her response today, to immerse herself in the world of the Union Learning Fund. She will witness something so moving, effective and valuable. I know it will change her mind as a result.”
Supported by the TUC and its affiliated unions, the ULF has enabled 68% of learners with no previous qualifications to get a qualification. 53% of employers saw an increase in employees gaining a qualification, while 77% said that union learning had a positive effect on the workplaces.