The POA fully support the TUC campaign, Save Union Learning, and hope to persuade the Government to drop proposals to end the Union Learning Fund (ULF).

Unions were told of the proposal to scrap the £12 million annual fund in a letter from the Department for Education.

The TUC says it was ”stunned” to receive the letter as there had been no prior discussion or consultation on the future of the fund, it is achieving its targets, is supported by employers, and it provides a net gain to the Exchequer.

The letter arrived just days after the Prime Minister gave a speech on the importance of skills in the government’s plans to ‘build back better’ (29th September). He promised a Lifetime Skills Guarantee, and to “give people of all ages the means and the confidence to switch and get the skills they need”.

The TUC campaign is launched with backing from employers, unions and education and training organisations. Major employers supporting the campaign include Tesco, Heathrow, Tata Steel and Arla Foods.

The campaign has the backing of Matthew Taylor, the chief executive of the RSA, who chaired the government’s Review of Modern Employment, which reported in 2017.

It is also backed by the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) and other lifelong learning experts, including the Workers Educational Association and the Learning and Work Institute.

The Union Learning Fund was set up in 1998 and has been supported by Governments of all parties. It increases access to learning and training in workplaces, brokered by unions.

In 2019-20, it supported 200,000 learners – both union members and non-members.

These learners undertake a wide range of learning and training related to work, including basic literacy and numeracy, ICT skills, ESOL, apprenticeships and traineeships, vocational training, and ongoing professional development.

Union Learning gets working people into skills training they would not otherwise have access to. That’s because union learning reps are trusted by their colleagues and by employers. And all union learning is directly relevant to the workplace, tailored to workers and supported by government funding.

The POA currently has 8 Regional Learning Centres and over 40 Link Learning Centres in England, employing 16 staff.

Mark Fairhurst, the POA National Chairman stated:

“The announcement that funding support for the Union Learning Fund is to be ended is very disappointing. POA Learning Centres throughout the country have greatly assisted our members over the last 17 years, helping them improve their skills and progress in their places of work. The POA stand united with the TUC in their campaign to persuade the Government to drop their proposals to end the Union Learning Fund”.

Steve Gillan, the POA General Secretary stated:

“The Government need to reverse this decision. I have witnessed over the years the magnificent work of the POA Union Learning and the confidence through that learning where POA members have developed skills. Education is vitally important not just for POA members but also local communities. At a time when many people during this pandemic are losing their jobs education through lifelong education will play a major part and Union Learning can and should be at the heart of that process”.

Ends For further information, contact: POA Press Office 020 8803 0255 Option 7