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Unions and employers partnership working - 22-06-2007
Ed Balls, Economic Secretary to the Treasury, spoke at the launch of a new report at Leeds University Business School. The report reveals that trade unions and employers work better when they join forces to tackle Britain's skills crisis.

Trade unions have signed more than 1,500 learning agreements with employers around the country, and these unique agreements are not only helping to combat Britain's skills crisis, but also improving union-employer workplace relationships. This important work has been underpinned by the efforts of more than 18,000 union learning representatives ( ULRs ) across the country.

The report, published by unionlearn (the TUC's learning and skills organisation) entitled, A Qualitative Study of Workplace Learning Agreements , was commissioned from Leeds University Business School. Using case studies, it shows that learning agreements (between employers and unions) contribute to the sustainability of learning partnerships, and embed trade union involvement.

The report also shows how union promotion of the learning agenda is complementary to a more strategic approach to Human Resource (HR) development. In most cases studied, the process of establishing a learning agreement enhanced relations between unions and management by improving trust.

Worker participation in learning has frequently dramatically increased as a result of union-led activities. In all the cases examined, ULRs have been recognised as a valuable resource for HR to draw upon. In over half the cases, internal labour markets have operated more effectively as a result of increased employee participation in learning, which has reduced external recruitment costs.

Ed Balls MP, Economic Secretary to the Treasury, said:

'This research shows that trade unions supported by unionlearn are doing much to open up learning opportunities for people in the workplace, which resulted in over 150,000 learners accessing high quality courses last year. This demonstrates the positive impact that the Government's investment in the Union Learning Fund and Unionlearn is having. Strong and sustainable partnerships between employers and unions are making a difference to learning in the workplace, often underpinned by learning agreements. The case studies by Leeds University Business School are exemplars of what can be done on the ground.

'But more workplaces need to get involved, which is why I am pleased that the CBI and the TUC -together with the DfES and DTI - have launched a project to promote a workplace dialogue on training and skills. This will include best practice guidance, which will help employers and unions to make learning agreements, which will directly benefit both parties. These learning agreements will also play a key role in getting employers to deliver on the Skills Pledge launched by the Government

Trades Union Congress

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