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The Magazine of the Northern TUC

NTUC Annual Conference A keen focus for the 2009 Annual Regional Conference

Learning at Work Day ’09 Unionlearn facilitates over 40 workplace events in the region

Fighting for the right to work Campaign to change the law that prevents Asylum Seekers working

Eight years of the LfAF fund Still the driving force in developing union led workplace learning

unions north Issue : 20 July 2009

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Issue 20 unionsnorth

A keen focus for the 2009 Northern TUC Annual Regional Conference

The 2009 Northern TUC Annual Regional Conference enjoyed a powerful start to its debates as Nicky Ramanandi from Unison kicked off the conference with a powerful opening speech welcoming the success in the region of keeping the BNP out. The work of trade unions, anti-racism groups and community organisations has proved highly effective in keeping the challenge of the far right at bay. A number of speakers joined the debate, pressing the urgency in continuing to fight against the racism and divisiveness of these far right parties.

Equality and the economy

the excellent leadership, organisation and commitment they had shown in taking on the BNP, in challenging the far right and in shattering the myths and lies perpetrated by their ilk. This work formed a major contribution to a central trade union role in tackling inequality at work and in our communities. Highlights of Frances O’Grady’s speech can be viewed at: www.recogitionpr.co.uk/ journalistarea-story.asp?id=6506

Nicky went on to receive the “Terry Rogers Workplace Representative of the Year Award” from Frances O’Grady for the leadership shown in taking on the BNP in Newcastle and across the region.

Part of the anti-racism debate included a welcome for the bold and innovative trade union support for the Anne Frank Education Trust permanent exhibition based in County Durham. The exhibition, primarily to be used in schools in the county, was on full display throughout the conference and has been used across the Northern Region to support education to combat far right views over the longer term.

In her address to conference Frances congratulated trade unions in the region for

Gender equality was also a major focus for debate with Paulene Robson presenting a

moving contribution on the case for trade unions tackling domestic violence, something that affects at least a quarter of women and has long-term impacts upon women and their families, as well as their employment and the wider economic community. Clare Williams highlighted the lack of representation of women across public life and challenged the TUC to support women in developing the knowledge, skills and confidence to address this inequality. There was, inevitably, much to discuss on the economy. While unemployment levels continue to increase in the region with workers continuing to feel vulnerable one of the cornerstones of the debate was the need for all unions in the region to support the efforts to keep Corus working. In moving an Emergency Motion Community highlighted the fact that as many as 10,000 jobs could be affected if the plant was to close, a potential disaster for Teesside. In other aspects of the economy debate GMB

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emphasised, now more than ever, the need for all aspects of UK Defence contracting to be located in the UK to support a fragile and desperate manufacturing base. In Energy, both Unite and GMB pointed to significant opportunities in the medium term; whether that be new nuclear build in Hartlepool, Carbon Capture and Storage Clean Coal technology in Teesside, Electric Car production in Sunderland or, perhaps the most immediate opportunity, wind power manufacturing on the Tyne. These economic opportunities were emphasised by Nick Brown in his address to Conference as North East Regional Minister. Nick addressed the issue of MPs’ expenses head-on, stating that individuals have let the Parliamentary Party, as well as their constituents down, and needed to be dealt with properly, formally and quickly, to restore confidence in the political system. Ahead of the public services Nick emphasised the overwhelming case for trying to find a better solution for the Post Office than privatisation – a statement warmly welcomed by conference delegates. Highlights from Nick’s speech can be found at: www.recognitionpr.co.uk/ journalistarea-story.asp?id=6504

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Nick was pleased to present the Northern TUC Health and Safety Rep of the Year award to Colin Meek from UCATT, for his excellent and continuing efforts in health and safety, made even more difficult due to restructuring and fragmentation of the company he works for with Sunderland City Council. The Communications Workers Union received unanimous support in the campaign to maintain the Post Office wholly in the Public Sector.

Conference delegates recognised that right across the public sector there will be continuous and increasing pressure on the public sector and public services. It is our job as trade unionists to speak up for public services, to articulate the case for these services in the public sector and to defend workers under threat from the knock-on effects of the economic downturn. Conference was pleased to welcome unionlearn’s national director, Liz Smith, to


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address the region. Liz recognised and appreciated the massive achievement of trade unions in the region in enabling thousands of workers to gain learning and skills opportunities. Quite simply, without union support, these workers would not be gaining any learning and development or progression. Liz, due to retire in July, was presented with a small commemoration of her visit by chair, Gill Hale. Now National Executive Director of the Learning and Skills Council, Chris Roberts, also praised the success of trade unions in the region and emphasised the need for unionlearn to keep an eye on the changing policies and priorities within the skills infrastructure nationally, regionally and locally.

Highlights from Liz’ and Chris’ speeches can be found at: www.recognitionpr.co.uk/ journalistarea-story.asp?id=6507 and also at: www.recognitionpr.co.uk/ journalistarea-story.asp?id=6508 Trade Union engagement in the Northern TUC remains high and we are pleased to welcome twelve new faces onto the Executive Committee this year, including representation for the first time on this body from the Chartered Society of Physiotherapists. Due to industrial duties we will no longer see Alan McGuckin from Unite on the EC. A full list of the Executive Committee, including chairs of the various working groups and fora is shown to the right. Kevin Rowan : Regional Secretary

The Executive Committee Organisation

First Name

Surname

ATL Cleveland County Association Community CSP CSP Whitehaven Trades Council CWU CWU FBU FBU GMB GMB GMB NASUWT NASUWT Northumberland County Association Northumberland County Association NUM NUM NUT NUT PCS PCS RMT TUC TUC TUC TUC TUC Tyne and Wear County Association UCATT UCU

Carla Chris

Powell Williamson

Ray Jill Iain John

Ardron Taylor Loughran Kane

Paul Jo Samantha Andy Jim Tom Julie Mike Michelle John

Clays Lawton Rye Noble Marshall Brennan Elliott Johnson Fish McCormack

Kathy

Taylor

Dave Kat Michael Elaine Simon Mary Stan Ian Kevin Melanie Barney Carolyn Martin

Guy Docherty Crilly Kay Elliott Ferguson Herschel West Rowan Lowden McGill Clayton Levy

John Joyce

Scott McAndrew

UCU TUC UNISON

Norman Elizabeth Clare

Jemison Killoran Williams

UNISON UNISON UNITE

Kenny Gill Davey

Bell Hale Hall

UNITE UNITE

Fazia Paulene

Hussain Robson

EC Position

Chair, Cumbria Forum

Chair, Young Members Network

Chair, Health & Safety Forum

Chair, Disability Forum TUCJCC

Finance Officer

Regional Education Officer Regional Secretary Unionlearn Regional Manager Regional Policy Officer

Chair, Education Learning & Skills Forum Chair, Pensions Advisory Group Union Development Co-ordinator Chair, Race Advisory Group Women’s Group Chair, International Forum Chair, Northern TUC Vice Chair, Northern TUC Chair Regional Policy Forum

...and the Conference resolutions A copy of all of the resolutions agreed at the Annual Regional Conference can be found at: www.tuc.org.uk/northern

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Northern TUC Annual Conference Awards

Northern TUC Workplace Representative of the Year

Health and Safety Representative of the Year

Union Learning Representative of the Year

Nicky Ramanandi : Unison, Newcastle City Branch Presented by Frances O’Grady, TUC Deputy General Secretary

Alan Meek : UCATT Presented by Nick Brown MP, Minister for the North

Pat McCourt : Unite Presented by Liz Smith, Director of unionlearn (pictured with Davey Hall, Unite, Regional Secretary)

In the last couple of years Nicky has developed into a really strong campaigner and trade union activist. As well as coping with a pretty challenging trade union role in the City Council in a difficult time, Nicky has organised, led and managed a hugely effective role in confronting and challenging the BNP in Newcastle, with great success.

Alan’s nomination for the health and safety award is well made within his nomination form with many references to his input health and safety wise but it should be noted that his work on health and safety has also intertwined with his leading role within the trade union movement – as convenor for what was Sunderland Council, he was to the forefront of the TUPE transfers involving the move to Sunderland Housing and then again in the rebranding to Gentoo as his employer is now called.

Pat has worked for Sedgefield Borough Council (transferred to Mears Group) for 30 years. Steeped in trade union tradition and activity Pat is a Unite Union Learning Rep, Shop Steward and Chair of the Unite Regional Council. He is also a member of the National Political Committee.

Without this kind of leadership and effort, it is the case that we would today be enduring BNP councillors in Newcastle. Nicky’s efforts in this area have been magnificent. In addition, she is also very closely involved in building wider knowledge and awareness of fascism and racism and building our campaigning resource against it. The Holocaust Memorial Day work Nicky and others were involved in were both motivating and inspiring. Nicky also represents the TUC on the City for Peace steering group in Newcastle.

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Recognising the dedication and effort, above and beyond, of our Reps

It would have been so easy for Alan to take a step back, concentrating on difficult issues of moving from the public to the private sector, and left ‘other’ matters such as health and safety to be looked after by others, but that is not his way. His responsibilities are all taken equally seriously and met with consistent good quality trade union activity - that is why it is good that we all can give Alan the recognition with the role he plays on the health and safety front.

As a very active ULR for a number of years Pat manages the Learning for All Funded ‘Aspire’ project at Mears Group Sedgefield following the transfer from Sedgefield Borough Council. The project was initially set up during February 2008 and has been funded from July that year and through to March 2010.   Learning and organising are closely linked and in the past nine months 75 new members have been recruited. Pat has worked extremely hard with his colleagues to develop a successful project, establish a learning centre and to engage the employer.


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Issue 20 unionsnorth

A major research resource for all aspects of trade union activity throughout the generations

TUC library collections

The TUC Library Collections are a major research resource for the study of all aspects of trade unions, lifelong learning and people at work. Established in 1922 as a reference resource for the TUC and affiliated unions, the Library moved to its new home, the Metropolitan University in London, in 1996. It holds books, pamphlets, periodicals and other material collected from the second half of the 19th century to the current day and includes trade union and official publications and material from the various campaigns and policy areas in which the TUC has been involved. The emphasis is on Britain, but many other countries are represented, especially Europe and the Commonwealth.

The TUC continues to deposit material on a regular basis and current trade union publications, newspapers, and other recent materials are collected. The TUC Library Collections also house a number of archival collections, which include the records of the Workers’ Educational Association and the Labour Research Department.

Library’s treasures, the manuscript of ‘The Ragged Trousered Philanthropists’ by Robert Tressell.

Over the last few years, the Library has widened access to its Collections by creating The Union Makes Us Strong: TUC History Online at... www.unionhistory.info

Linked websites include The Workers’ War: Home Front Recalled, with images, documents and oral testimony from those who worked on the Home Front during the Second World War and Winning Equal Pay: the Value of Women’s Work with a video archive of interviews with women involved in important equal pay cases plus digitised photos, posters and documents from the 19th century to today. The library is open to visitors Monday to Friday, 9.15 - 16.45.

This award winning website displays an online history of the British trade union movement using thousands of digitised photographs, posters and documents from the Collections. Included is one of the

For further details, contact the Librarian, Chris Coates at TUC Library Collections, Holloway Road Learning Centre, London Metropolitan University, 236-250 Holloway Road, London N7 6PP. Tel: 020 7133 2260 or email: tuclib@londonmet.ac.uk or check our website: www.londonmet.ac.uk/tuc

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Adult Learners Week : 9-15 May 2009 Learning Styles - City of Sunderland Council

Busy week uncovers hidden talents Weeks of military style planning came together for the Learning Styles Project based within the City of Sunderland Council - not only for Adult Learners week but also the project’s official launch which took place the same week. The week commencing 11 May saw seven separate Adult Learner events covering seven separate areas of the Council, from their ICT department, to a local drop in Health Centre. By the last day, Friday, the project had engaged with well over 300 council employees, many of whom had completed taster sessions from Indian Head Massage to Tai-Chi or had lifelong learning briefing sessions delivered by the Project lead, Howard Fawcett and his fellow ULRs. Support from the Council has been excellent; from issuing a job circular advertising the position of new ULRs for the project, to advertising time-off allowed to attend events to all staff in every department. The ULR advert provided expressions of interest from 16 potential ULRs from all different areas, including a senior manager, operations staff and even a Local Councillor who has made a firm commitment to train at the next available opportunity. The Council also actively promotes the Health and

Wellbeing agenda and has given over a number of rooms for use by the project. Howard came up with the idea of naming these HELP rooms-Health Education and Learning Place. With this in mind Health and Wellbeing checks were available at a number of the events with one individual making an initial enquiry about a health matter and subsequently being referred to the councils own Occupational Health Department. As part of the promotional side of the week Howard decided to contact local businesses to see if they would be prepared to donate prizes for the week. Howard discovered he had a natural talent in this area, obtaining dozens of high quality and expensive prizes ranging from a round of golf at a local club to family passes to Beamish Museum and Washington Wildfowl. The local Health and Racquet club gave day passes to well over 100 attendees of the week!

Two of the ULRs, Eddie Campbell and John Tate also discovered their hidden talents as they prepared power point presentations for the week (including an excellent presentation for the launch event). Neither had used this media before but with a bit of time and effort did a great job. The launch itself was the final icing on the cake, making a fitting end to a highly productive week. Felicity Mendelson, MBE spoke about the successes and benefits her own project had brought to Newcastle Council and Barney McGill delivered the opening address. This year will see the first full year of the project and early signs are excellent, with proposed IT access points being opened and managed by Howard in partnership with the Council. A big thank you has to be given to everyone who played a part. unionsnorth issue 20

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Learning at Work Day : 14 May 2009 LAWD - Events across the region

A work day to remember This year, unionlearn helped in excess of 40 workplaces throughout the North East and Cumbria to hold workplace learning events as part of Adult Learners Week and more specifically, Learning at Work Day on Thursday 14 May. In the UK last year thousands of organisations took part; large corporations, SMEs, public sector organisations and government department – including 35 workplaces across the northern region who were allocated funding through unionlearn’s Union Learning Fund.  With almost 4000 learners in the region engaging in some form of learning this was proof positive LAWD is a fantastic opportunity for partnership working – and delivery.   Due to this fantastic success unionlearn committed to over £30,000 of funding in the northern region alone being made available to help unions to facilitate and run events again this year.  Once again demand outstripped supply.    This year there were 41 projects running from Berwick to Carlisle to Teesside and Kendal.  Some of the employers working in partnership with their unions on LAWD were: Warburtons, Boots, Newcastle City Council, BT, NPower, Holme House and Acklington prisons, Department of Work and Pensions and DHL/Argos – to name but a few.   The initiatives covered a broad spectrum of learning, from sessions on digital photography, salsa dancing or

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sign language and taster courses on subjects from literacy and numeracy through to Foundation Degrees, to learning Open Days for staff to visit throughout the day; complete with learning related competitions and introductory sessions on holistic therapies like Indian Head massage and Reflexology.  

“Learning at Work Day is a prime opportunity for unions and employers to work together to really promote the ethos of lifelong learning and upskilling the region’s workforce. Being able to offer a substantial resource, as well as support from our regional unionlearn team enables those taking part to capitalise on the day and really make it count. “It is more important than ever that workplaces and individuals maintain and develop their skills levels in order to adapt and thrive in the current economic circumstances.” Barney McGill Unionlearn Regional Manager

Some of this year’s Learning at Work Day activities


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Adult Learners Week : 9-15 May 2009 Tetley GB - Eaglescliffe and Newton Aycliffe

Learning is Tetley’s cup of tea!

“Adult Learners Week at Tetley has been fantastic, the Union Learning Reps have done an amazing job and the management team have been very supportive, it shows what can be achieved when Unions and Employers work together.” Dan Gow : GMB Learning Organiser

As part of national Adult Learners Week, there was a lot of activity at the Tetley sites at Eaglescliffe and Newton Aycliffe over the week. The Union Learning Representatives at Tetley organised numerous events for Tetley employees throughout the week including visits from BBC Raw, Middlesbrough College and the Open University, who brought along a wide range of information, from organising “The GMB Union is delighted to be involved, along with unionlearn, in bringing an opportunity for employees to enhance their skills within the workplace and bring added value to the employer in this process.” Tommy Brennan : GMB Regional Secretary

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your bank account and coping with household finances, to enroling on a course for Digital Photography. “The Company have a longstanding strong relationship and tradition of involvement with the Trade Unions and I am extremely pleased that the Learning for All project has been jointly coordinated which will provide for new education opportunities for the workforce. In my belief it will ultimately translate into real advantages, and benefit the company as a whole in competitive terms.” Davey Hall : Unite Regional Secretary

A key event of the week was a visit from the Skills for Life bus, which parked at the Tetley factory and gave employees the opportunity to go on-board and find out more about improving their literacy and numeracy skills.

“It is a pleasure to visit an excellent company with excellent Trade Union organisation. I am delighted to see how the company and the Unions work together to achieve a valued relationship of staff development, learning and developing further skills in a wide variety of areas. It is fantastic to see a Union organisation and a company working hand in hand for the benefit of employees.” Dari Taylor : Stockton South MP

Although the event was organised by the factory Trade Union representatives, led by Elaine Preston, it was very strongly supported and actively encouraged by the Tetley management team. This was strongly illustrated by the signing of the Skills Pledge. “It is a pleasure to work with our partners from Unite and GMB to increase the emphasis on learning and skills for our staff. This initiative perfectly compliments the work that Tetley are doing to offer NVQ Levels 2 & 3 training to all of our employees.” Steve Eastham Tetley UK Operations Director


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Issue 20 unionsnorth

The LfAF isn’t simply about teaching workers literacy, numeracy and computer skills

The inside story on the bagpipes When a Prison Officer at HMP Acklington approached Prison Officers Association ULR, Don Head, about the possibility of learning the bagpipes he was sceptical about his ability to provide a tutor. However, as anyone who knows Don will testify, he is rarely beaten. Enquiries revealed a former ex army junior champion piper, Steve Christie, was already working within the prison. Steve said he would be willing to tutor anyone who wanted to learn the pipes and eventually seven employees indicated that they were willing to give it a go. With funding made available through the unionlearn Learning for All Fund to purchase

practice chanters the first sessions were arranged in December 2007 at the POA Learning Centre, Acklington. Today the original seven, plus Don, are still learning and have progressed from basic scales through grace notes to embellishments and one member, Rob Wood, has even joined the Morpeth Pipe Band.

“As a result, 31 prison staff have enrolled on a introduction to computers course and over 30 staff from Hirst High School have completed an Equality and Diversity course offered in the Learning Centre.” Staff at the centre are confident that a number of the seven (plus Don) will soon be able to give their first public performance. So watch this space!

POA ULR Don said: “It may seem strange that a learning centre primarily concerned with offering Skills for Life and computer courses should be organising music lessons but the publicity these courses have generated have already started to reap benefits amongst staff and the wider community.

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unionsnorth Issue 20 RTH E R

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The LfAF enters its 8th year and is going from strength to strength 21 of the projects are initiatives previously in receipt of LfA funding and continued from the 1st of April. 14 are classed as new projects and in order to accommodate the high volume of applications a start date of the 1st May was agreed.

LfAF update 2009-2010 The unionlearn with the Northern TUC Learning for All programme offers a unique, high quality, strategic and operational support service to trade unions wishing to run workplace learning projects to generate and increase learner demand. This is achieved through providing a resource to cover the cost of Union Learning Representative activity (adding value to local ‘facility-time’ agreements) in workplaces across the North East. The aim of the Learning for All Fund is to increase the number of adults engaging in learning and training in the region through specific focused ULR activity. The Fund helps Union Learning Representatives to play a more effective and influential role in raising the demand for learning, particularly amongst hard to reach potential learners. Acquiring such funding may also act as a catalyst to developing learning partnerships with employers and providers, ensuring a joined-up approach to engaging adults in learning, training, skills acquisition and progression. The Fund, now in its eighth year, has demonstrated year on year improvement, resulting in significant numbers of adults in the region participating in learning and skills development. The model has proved highly successful and is based on the unique relationship which the TUC enjoys with trade

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unions, and supports and enhances the work of highly motivated ULRs in promoting and enabling learning in workplaces throughout the region. Since its launch in April 2002, the LfAF has allocated nearly £4m to 84 projects across the North East, leading to more than 1,000 new ULRs trained, over 75 workplace learning centres established, and 25,000 adults participating in learning, 5,000 of whom were able to achieve a skills for life qualification. The Panel approved 34 applications this year. The overall figure allocated to workplace projects was £683,000. The funding allocated is mainly for secondment time for the ULRs to broker learning and some money towards essential resources.

In terms of sectoral and regional split for the 2009/2010 funded projects, 21 projects are focused on public sector employees, and 14 on private sector employees. This year sees the development of 4 workplace projects across two new sectors, food and drink and the energy sector. The table on the right shows the total number of projects supported to date through the ESF funded programme. With this new round of ESF funding through NE LSC Co-Financing, we are in a strong position to continue to deliver support for trade unions to help adults enter into learning. We work very closely with the North East Learning and Skills Council and with the Regional Development Agency, One North East, to ensure that activity carried out through the Fund helps to make a major contribution towards meeting the skills development needs of the region, meeting regional economic and social priorities, as well as rise to the challenges set out by Lord Leitch in his review for world class skills.


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Information Advice and Guidance It is a unionlearn objective that quality assured IAG is embedded in all learning projects, through offering training for ULRs and developing an IAG and ULR network to share experience and expertise. The LfAF will support a limited number of ULRs to acquire NVQ Level 3 or 4 in IAG and a number of projects to achieve matrix standard.

Projects supported in 2009 - 2010 through the ESF funded programme Sector

Employer

Area

Union

Social Housing and Housing Maintenance

Erimus Housing Mears Group plc South Tyneside Homes

Tees Valley Tees Valley Tees Valley

USDAW UNITE GMB

Banking and Business

Barclays Barclaycard

Tyne and Wear Tyne and Wear

UNITE UNITE

Manufacturing

Astrum Electrolux

Durham Durham

UNITE UNITE

Local Authority

Northumberland County Council Newcastle City Council City of Sunderland Council Derwentside District Council Darlington Borough Council Middlesbrough Council Durham County Council Durham County Unitary Authority South Tyneside Council Gateshead Council

Northumberland Tyne and Wear Tyne and Wear Durham Tees Valley Tees Valley Durham Durham Tyne and Wear Tyne and Wear

GMB UNISON UNISON GMB UNISON UNISON UNISON GMB GMB UNISON

Transport Storage and Communication

Royal Mail

Tees Valley

CWU

Public Administration

BAE Land Systems HMP Frankland Prison DWP Tyneview Park DWP Benton Park View Durham Passport Service HMRC Sunderland Contact Centre HMP Acklington HMP Holme House Prison HMRC Waterview Park HMRC Contact Centre - Newcastle

Tyne and Wear Durham Tyne and Wear Tyne and Wear Durham Tyne and Wear Northumberland Tees Valley Tyne and Wear Regionwide

GMB POA PCS PCS PCS PCS POA POA PCS PCS

Education

University of Teesside Stockton Riverside College

Tees Valley

UCU

Health and Social Work

Northgate Hospital Tees Esk and Wear Valley NHS Trust Tristar Homes Ltd Gateshead Health NHS Foundation

Northumberland Tees Valley Tees Valley Tyne and Wear

UNISON GMB UNISON UNISON

Retail

North East checkout LearningCOOP Check out Learning - South COOP

Northumberland

USDAW

Tees Valley

USDAW

Emergency Service

Northumberland Fire and Rescue

Northumberland

FBU

People Property Business

GENTOO

Tyne and Wear

UNITE

Energy Sector

N Power

Tees Valley

GMB

Food and Drink

Warburtons Tetley GB KP Foods

Regionwide Tees Valley Tees Valley

BFAWU GMB GMB

Offering high quality Information, Advice and Guidance (IAG) to potential learners is key to successful and sustainable learning projects. In February, 51 ULRs commenced their learning journey towards gaining a nationally recognised IAG qualification, with 37 of the 51 opting for the higher level 4 qualification. Unionlearn is pleased to inform unions that there are further places for any union learning representatives who wish to sign up for the NVQ in Information, Advice and Guidance course, successful completion of this will lead to a formally recognised qualification, which can be used and applied in your day-to-day union and workplace positions. If you wish to apply for a place on the course which is set to run for approximately 9 months, an enrolment day will be held at the Northern TUC regional office, Commercial Union House, 39 Pilgrim Street, Newcastle upon Tyne, NE1 6QE on the 8th July 2009. The enrolments will be split into two sessions a morning and afternoon session. If you are interested in the qualification and the 8th July’s enrolment day is unsuitable we can arrange individual enrolments with the training provider. For further information please contact Pat Winter, unionlearn project worker leading on the IAG programme, on: 0191 232 3175 or e-mail: pwinter@tuc.org.uk

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The untapped workforce

Working to restore the right to work for Asylum Seekers in the region

As many people will now be aware, the Northern TUC have been working with the Regional Refugee Forum NE (RRF) as part of the national TUC/Refugee Council campaign to restore the right to work for Asylum Seekers in the UK. Asylum Seekers have been denied the right to work while awaiting decisions on their status since 2002, when the law was changed. One of the most damaging aspects of this policy, and one of the main reasons why the trade unions are campaigning for a change in the law, is the long term impact that this period of enforced inactivity has on the individuals concerned. Asylum seekers come to this country fleeing persecution and violence. An asylum seeker becomes a refugee once they have been granted leave to stay. This can take years and is often accompanied by a huge sense of relief. However, their problems are not over there. Thousands of refugees, having won the right to stay, find it impossible to pick up their working lives, having either lost the skills they had in their home country or having been unable to transfer their skills or qualifications. As a consequence, many refugees end up in low-wage, low skill and temporary occupations that do not use their skills. In those jobs, it is often very difficult to access training and development, so they are trapped. Through a new photographic exhibition, RRF Member, Panganai Svotwa has been documenting the situation of refugees and migrant workers caught in this trap. The photographs make up an exhibition called the ‘Skilled Project’, which was recently displayed at the Northern TUC Annual Conference. The exhibition tells the stories of those, such as Melusi from Zimbabwe (pictured left), who have suffered at the hands of this policy by comparing their present employment with their qualifications and jobs in their home country. As Panganai says himself:

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In Zimbabwe I was a Departmental Store Manager, and when I came to UK, my qualifications and experience were ignored and failed to secure a job in that field

or email: bsellers@tuc.org.uk

Nasrin (pictured right), meanwhile, came over as a skilled migrant worker, a pharmacist in her native Iran, but necessity forced her to abandon this career:

When I arrived in the UK, my first responsibility was to find a way to support myself and my son. And I had to learn English “I asked some pharmacies if I could work for them voluntarily, just to keep in touch and get some experience and references in the UK, but no one accepted me. I couldn’t afford the University. Then I realised I would have to wait for my status, before I could qualify for a student loan. I realised it would take too long (6 years) and cost too much to pursue a career in pharmacy, so I had to start again in another direction.” Many migrant workers from Eastern Europe face similar issues: qualified professionals in their home country, many are now working in food processing, cleaning services and the hospitality industry at minimum wage. Unionlearn projects and Union Learning Representatives (ULRs) in this region have had massive successes in engaging new learners and now they have a vital role in responding to the needs of refugees, migrants and other workers who have been made vulnerable by this recession. And, in doing so, they might well be creating the next generation of ULRs. To find out more about the Northern TUC's Vulnerable Workers Project, or the initiatives around ESOL, please contact: Ben Sellers on 0191 2275566

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unionsnorth Issue 20

Work wise - work smarter In its aim to make the UK one of the most progressive economies in the world by encouraging the widespread adoption of smarter working practices, Work Wise celebrated its fourth Work Wise Week from 12-18 May.

Greater London – some 300 miles from the office. She said: “It was the opportunity to work from home, reporting in to head office once a month, which really attracted me to the job.”

DAY 3 Virtual Office Day

Smarter working practices may include flexible, remote and mobile working as well as working from home. Each day of the week reflected a different theme of the campaign.

DAY 1 Mobile Office Day Michael Hitchen, ICT Senior Specialist at One North East, demonstrates the virtual technology

Howard Forrest, NEEC’s Chief Exec fully supports the Work Wise campaign

...encouraged people to work while on the move throughout the region. Work Wise North East (WWNE) reviewed the progress of the North East Employer Coalition (NEEC), a local not for profit organisation, one year after adopting flexible working practices in a bid to reduce costs. Howard Forrest, chief executive of NEEC says: “Adopting flexible working has led to a significant increase in productivity and has also allowed us to make substantial cost savings.”

...reviewed the growing trend for virtual meetings. The day was expected to receive support from almost half a million businesses across the UK to show how the British economy could save billions of pounds by making use of video or telephone conferencing. In the region, One North East, a major supporter of flexible working methods and smarter working, has recently invested in virtual technology to improve communications and reduce costs, seeing this as the way ahead to communicate with its employees and external partners.

DAY 4 Work From Home Day

DAY 2 Remote Office Day

BT’s Tom Pape has seen a big improvement in his work-life balance Tina Norris with children at home in Hampton Court

encouraged employers to use remote offices instead of travelling to a central office. WWNE talked to Tina Norris, a technical support manager for law firm, Dickinson Dees LLP. Tina works from home in Hampton Court,

...revealed the latest research findings from the TUC, which indicate that more people than ever are working from home. Five million people were expected to support the campaign on Friday, May 15.

The region celebrated the fourth annual Work Wise Week from 12-18 May

growth in home working with 38 per cent more people working from home than ten years ago, although we have the second lowest percentage of home workers nationally at 12.3 per cent. Tom Pape, a Business Improvement Consultant for BT, leapt at the chance to work from home, when BT suggested it. Now he saves on a 60-mile round trip from his home in Rothbury into Newcastle when he would normally have been in the office, is less stressed and benefits from an improved work:life balance.

DAY 5 Smarter Travel Day

Wiser ways to get to work means parking the car and using other methods of transportation

...was celebrated with Smarter Choices and rounded the week off. WWNE suggested alternatives to commuting by car in an attempt to discourage use of single occupancy vehicles at peak travel times.

The range of smarter working practices reviewed during the course of the week, served to demonstrate the various ways in which an organisation can save money, improve morale, more easily attract and retain staff, operate more efficiently and make a contribution towards reducing congestion on the roads.

The North East region has seen the highest Sarah Stewart : WWNE Project Director

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Issue 20 unionsnorth

Contacts: Kevin Rowan Northern TUC Regional Secretary krowan@tuc.org.uk Carolyn Clayton Regional Policy officer cclayton@tuc.org.uk Tom Ross Policy Project Worker tross@tuc.org.uk Melanie Lowden Secretary/Office Manager mlowden@tuc.org.uk Ben Sellers Vulnerable Workers Project Worker bsellers@tuc.org.uk

Unions Work s unionor w k

unionosrk w

Barney Mcgill Unionlearn regional manager bmcgill@tuc.org.uk

A new Case Study publication, detailing the depth and breadth of the work the Northern TUC and unionlearn carries out in the region, is now available.

Dave Storrie Unionlearn acting regional co-ordinator dstorrie@tuc.org.uk

The eight detailed studies outline the benefits of union-led learning in the workplace.

Ian West Regional Education Officer iwest@tuc.org.uk

To obtain your copy please contact our Newcastle office on: 0191 232 3175 or visit www.tuc.org.uk/northern or www.unionlearn.org.uk/northern

Anne Aitkenhead Unionlearn Project Assistant aaitkenhead@tuc.org.uk Linda Hughes Regional development worker lhughes@tuc.org.uk Beth Farhat Learning for All Fund Project Worker bfarhat@tuc.org.uk David Nicholson Project Worker dnicholson@tuc.org.uk

events

For more information on events or issues please contact the Northern TUC

Pat Winter Project Worker pwinter@tuc.org.uk

July 2009 Calendar

Natasha Berry Project Worker nberry@tuc.org.uk

02

Aida Quilcue Meeting Regional Indigenous Council of Cauca

Mike Tansey Project Worker mtansey@tuc.org.uk

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Durham Miners Gala Durham City

Joe McGuigan Project Worker jmcguigan@tuc.org.uk

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Health & Safety Working Party

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Education Learning & Skills Forum Britannia Airport Hotel, Newcastle

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Northern Pride Event See : www.northernpride.org.uk

Ken Gyles Higher Level Skills project kgyles@tuc.org.uk Graeme Rushton Project Worker, Cumbria grushton@tuc.org.uk Susanne Nichol Marketing and Communications snichol@tuc.org.uk

Northern TUC Commercial Union House 5th Floor, 39 Pilgrim Street, Newcastle upon Tyne NE1 6QE Telephone 0191 232 3175 or email northern@tuc.org.uk

August 2009 Calendar 12

Health & Safety Working Party

September 2009 Calendar 09

Health & Safety Working Party

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TUC Congress Liverpool, 14 to 17 September

www.unionlearn.org.uk/northern • www.tuc.org.uk/northern

Julia Watson u-net Performance and Support Officer jwatson@tuc.org.uk Copyright in this publication is held by the TUC unless otherwise stated. For further copies of this item contact Northern TUC on 0191 232 3175 or via Email northern@tuc.org.uk. This text may also be made available, on request, in accessible formats such as braille, audio tape and large print, at no extra cost.

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Unions North Issue 20 : July 2009  

The Magazine of the Northern TUC. In this issue of the Northern TUC magazine: NTUC Annual Conference; Learning at Work Day '09; Fighting for...