Retail trade union leader Paddy Lillis, Usdaw General Secretary, has written to the Chancellor ahead of the Budget, on 3 March, urging the Government to reverse their decision to withdraw union learning funding in England and to avoid the negative impact this will have on key skills learning.

The Government announced that all funding will be withdrawn from the end of March 2021, despite budgeting £12 million a year for the Union Learning Fund (ULF) until March 2022. Around 200,000 workers are supported each year into learning or training with union support through the ULF. Full letter to the Chancellor of the Exchequer:

Paddy Lillis, Usdaw General Secretary says:
“Trade unions use ULF funding solely to promote lifelong learning, encouraging and supporting workers back into education to gain qualifications in core subjects such as Maths, English and IT. We also successfully support many Government flagship schemes in the workplace such as apprenticeships, traineeships and the new Kickstart scheme.

“Usdaw engages around 17,500 members and non-members per year in lifelong learning. The union has developed learning agreements with over 20 major employers resulting in more than 60 workplace learning centres. In addition our online gateway guarantees access to learning, currently offering over 1,000 opportunities, attracting over 24,000 learners last year, which is set to double this year. Without the £860,000 ULF funding Usdaw receives these lifelong learning projects are not viable and will be closed down.

“The Government’s lifetime skills guarantee will not be effective unless learning opportunities are taken up and often the barrier is a lack of confidence. The strength of union learning is peer-to-peer support and mentoring for workers provided in the workplace to help them re-engage with lifelong learning opportunities. If the Government is serious about improving the skills and qualifications of workers, they should maintain funding for ULF. Out of a national skills fund of £2.5 billion, surely £12 million for successful union learning projects that deliver for over 200,000 learners is affordable. We hope the Chancellor will recognise the value of these projects, which reach the workers other schemes do not.”

Usdaw (Union of Shop, Distributive and Allied Workers) is the UK’s fifth biggest trade union with over 400,000 members. Membership has increased by more than one-third over the last couple of decades. Most Usdaw members work in the retail sector, but the union also has many members in transport, distribution, food manufacturing, chemicals and other trades.

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