Blog: We must save union learning

Decision to scrap the Union Learning Fund in England is all about an ‘ideological distaste for trade unions’

Our union’s role in empowering our members has always been so important to me. The work that goes into helping our members to learn – to develop their own skills and experience – is invaluable.

Over decades in our union, I’ve met and campaigned alongside countless UNISON members who have seen their lives and their opportunities transformed by union learning. Their union has helped them change their lives and in turn, they have changed our union, their communities and our country for the better.

Union learning is one of the most incredible things our union and our movement does – and so the disgraceful decision of the Tory Westminster government to axe funding for union learning next March is as astonishing as it is counterproductive.

At a time when working people are rightly worried about their futures, the education secretary has wielded the knife against those who rely on lifelong learning. With our country already battered by a decade of austerity, this government now wants to inflict more pain on those who have suffered cuts aplenty in recent years.

And all of this – shamefully – during a global pandemic that will lead to the sharpest and most profound recession in generations.

It will be many of those key workers, applauded on our streets each week, who will now see their chance to learn new skills come under attack. UNISON members who take part in learning not only improve their own prospects but benefit the public services they deliver too. Reading, writing, gaining computer skills – all now at risk.

All for a tiny amount of money and driven by an ideological distaste for trade unions and our ability to organise in the interests of working people.

The government must now reverse this decision and maintain this vital lifeline for working people.

UNISON, working alongside the TUC and sister unions, will continue to fight for the future of our members. For their chance to learn and grow. And for a country where, when times are tough, we build our people up, rather than cut their safety net out from underneath them.