Award Winning Trade Unions are Joining up Learning with SPT

April 21st 2010

Helen Dowie prize winners and FM

A typical worker at Strathclyde Partnership for Transport (SPT), James Sneddon has worked in the Subways and Engineering Department in Govan for over 30 years. Before his trade union signed a learning agreement with SPT, most of James’ training was on the job through in-house courses.

James said, “It has been a revelation that learning agreements are now in place, thanks mainly to my Union Learning Rep, Brian Stewart, and my shop stewards. In the past year I have completed a course on the 17th Edition of IEE Wiring Regulations Handbook, Level 1 Computing and I am now attending Level 2 Computing.”

Along with the lives of nearly 100 other workers employed by SPT, James’ life was changed when a group of seven Union Learning Representatives (ULRs) from Unite the Union and UNISON successfully incorporated learning into core union business within the past year. The employer now recognises learning as a collective bargaining issue.

SPT covers a wide geographical area and the ULRs have arranged the learning required on-site at shift-friendly times, including courses on night shift. All courses have been delivered free of charge to the workers, and have included vocational as well as social learning. Due to progression routes, some union members have been on two or three courses. In the past year, there have been 2,138 hours of learning: 1,528 in company time, and 610 in the learners’ own time.

James continued, “I now put my newfound knowledge to good use both for the company and myself and I hope to continue to source courses which will benefit both me and the company.” In recognition of their achievements, the seven Union Learning Reps will receive the 5th STUC Helen Dowie Award for Lifelong Learning at the STUC Annual Congress in Dundee on Wednesday, 21st April 2010. Sponsored by Skills Development Scotland, the award will be presented by First Minister Alex Salmond MSP.

The award recipients are: Gerry Hastings of UNISON and Brian Stewart, Sonny Singh, Harry Copland, Ian Findlay, John Lennon and Brian Conner of Unite. The award will be presented by the First Minister, Alex Salmond MSP.

Lead Learning Rep Brian Stewart said, “The pleasure in seeing other people fulfil their potential through union-led learning, and in seeing them become more confident and more involved in the workplace is rewarding. To be part of the team who are the recipients of this award demonstrates that we are making a difference, and becoming a Union Learning Rep is the first step to making that happen.”

STUC General Secretary Grahame Smith said:

“This award recognises the leading role trade union activists have played in workplace learning in all sectors throughout Scotland.

Investment in skills and training is the key to help speed along the economic recovery. The Union Learning Reps at Strathclyde Partnership for Transport have demonstrated a robust negotiating structure which has resulted in an exemplary partnership between the unions and the employer through a workplace learning agreement. This illustrates how trade unions can help develop the full potential of individual workers.”

First Minister Alex Salmond said:

“I’m delighted to present the fifth Helen Dowie Award for Lifelong Learning to the union learning team from Strathclyde Partnership for Transport. The team, from two different unions, have worked well together to ensure that colleagues have had important opportunities to develop themselves.

“The Scottish Government recognises the importance of workplace learning and the key role that unions play in this, which is why we have committed record investment in the Scottish Union Learning Fund (SULF) and Scottish Union Learning.” Unite Regional Secretary John Quigley said:

"I am pleased to congratulate the reps at SPT who have been chosen to receive this important award. They have brought opportunities to our members to improve their skills and gain vocational qualifications.

What makes their achievement particularly impressive is the way they have incorporated learning into core union business, and secured robust agreements that guarantee our members time off for learning. I believe that putting learning on the collective bargaining agenda is crucial to transforming our workplaces into highly skilled, well paid environments. Investing in skills is important if we want to grow our economy out of recession."

UNISON Scottish Secretary Matt Smith said:

"At a time when Strathclyde Partnership for Transport is receiving much media attention for other reasons, it is good to welcome the positive role that UNISON and Unite are playing there. We are delighted that Gerry has been given this award, and once again UNISON is at the forefront of learning agenda.

“The learning route has been very important in taking the union to thousands of workers in many work places and we are proud of the work that has been done by Gerry and other Union Learning Reps in opening up opportunities for learning at work to thousands of workers in Scotland."

SPT Chair Jonathan Findlay said:

“We are delighted that our learning group was chosen to receive this year’s Helen Dowie Award. SPT’s learning agreement, which was reached with trades unions in 2008, enables staff to access new opportunities for lifelong learning and training both within SPT and with outside training providers.

“This excellent partnership working has so far resulted in more than 2,000 hours of union-funded learning for SPT staff, and demonstrates our commitment to nurturing a culture of learning within the workplace.”

ENDS

For further information please contact:

Jennifer Payne, Marketing Officer Scottish Union Learning Tel: 0141 337 8130 Email: jpayne@stuc.org.uk

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