STUC Recognises Learning Rep Dedication to Everyday Skills for Migrant Workers

April 22nd 2009

James Lillis is no ordinary bus driver. He is also an award-winning Union Learning Representative for Unite. In this role, James makes learning opportunities accessible to all employees at First Glasgow. There are a large number of Eastern European migrant workers within the bus depot, so James learned to speak Polish. This has enabled him to help the migrant workers, and these workers return the favour by studying “Glaswegian”.

James said, “When new employees come to Scotland and hear the Glasgow accent, it can be a problem. Drivers have to learn to understand what is meant when a customer says, for example, “Gie us an aw day tae the toon.” (“Give us an all day ticket to the town.”) As Union Learning Reps, we sit down and help them translate and understand Glaswegian so they can do their job. It’s a brilliant thing to help others grow in confidence as they strengthen their everyday skills.”

James runs the workplace learning centre where he promotes participation in lifelong learning through short story competitions and setting up various literacy and numeracy initiatives. In recognition of all of his outstanding efforts in trade union learning, James will receive the 4th Annual STUC Helen Dowie Award for Lifelong Learning on Wednesday, 22 April at the STUC Annual Congress in Perth. The Award is sponsored by learndirect scotland and will be presented by the Cabinet Secretary for Education and Lifelong Learning, Fiona Hyslop MSP.

James said, “I am very proud and honoured to be this year’s recipient of the Helen Dowie Award for Lifelong Learning. As a Union Learning Representative, it is very rewarding and satisfying to see learners fulfil their potential and further their education.”

STUC General Secretary Grahame Smith said:

“This award recognises the leading role trade union activists play in the promotion of lifelong learning and skills in workplaces in all sectors throughout Scotland.

“James Lillis is a natural leader who focuses his efforts in supporting others to learn within the workplace. He is an asset to his union and a credit to the trade union-led lifelong learning movement.”

Unite Regional Secretary John Quigley said:

"I am very pleased on behalf of Unite to congratulate James Lillis on winning the Helen Dowie Award, and recognise the excellent work he and his colleagues are doing. The lifelong learning project at First Bus has given our members new opportunities to improve their skills, and to get support and guidance from the union.”

“I am particularly impressed with the work that has been done to integrate migrant workers into the workplace by providing ESOL courses. All of the Unite Union Learning Reps across the country, in all sectors of our economy, are doing an excellent job of helping their colleagues to raise their skill levels by negotiating with their employers for better access to learning and training."

Cabinet Secretary for Education and Lifelong Learning, Fiona Hyslop MSP said

“I am delighted to be presenting this 4th Annual STUC Helen Dowie Award for Lifelong Learning to James Lillis. James has been instrumental in supporting migrant workers in Larkfield develop their communication skills. It is so important that everyone in Scotland gets the opportunity to develop their skills and learning. “The work James has done with many of his colleagues has enabled them to develop their own learning, contribute to the company and further contribute to the wider community. I think he is a very deserved winner and I wish him all the best for his future endeavours.”

In speaking about her constituent’s achievement, Johann Lamont MSP said:

"I was delighted to learn of James' fabulous success in securing this prestigious award. His role in developing the Learning Centre within the workplace and his tireless work in supporting his fellow Polish workers to integrate within their community is an inspiration to us all and speaks powerfully of everything that is best about trade unions and trade unionists. I congratulate James on his award, commend the STUC on its ongoing commitment to learning in the workplace and urge employers to support such important efforts in workplaces across Scotland."


Notes for editors

  • On his own initiative, James designed, developed and now runs a course that shows the hazards a driver can encounter on bus routes in Glasgow. The course also explores issues such as vehicle checks and customer care. As a result of his commitment, Polish workers beginning work with First Glasgow actively approach the union to join.

For further information please contact:

Jennifer Payne, Marketing Officer Scottish Union Learning Tel: 0141 337 8130

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