Page 1

Southern and Eastern Region



I lo e my Quick Read best of all Lucy Cavendish celebrates success with us

With worrying indications that the UK economy is looking ever more likely to slip back into recession, it’s vital the trade union movement does all it can to reduce the impact of the economic downturn on working families. But that work need not be at the expense of other priorities. In fact, the economic and the environmental agendas can strengthen each other, just as the economic and the educational can – and do. We all know that workplace learning can lead to greater productivity, increased efficiency and the financial savings that flow from them. Something similar is true of green skills. At a time when budgets are tight, improving energy efficiency can cut business costs just as surely as it helps reduce the damaging effects of climate change. Already, unionlearn SERTUC is working on a low-carbon project in south London, in partnership with Lewisham College, construction union UCATT, lecturers’ union UCU, environmental campaign Groundwork, and property firms Lend Lease and Wilmott Dixon. Prospect and CWU reps at BT’s research and development centre at Adastral Park near Ipswich have set up an effective environmental forum that oversees green improvements on the site. An FBU rep in Bury St Edmunds has introduced recycling, composting and energy efficiency measures at their fire station and has been working with management at regional level to improve the service’s environmental impact. In London, unions at the Great Ormond Street Hospital for Children NHS Trust have helped set up a joint management-union environment committee to undertake a rolling programme of environmental audits of every department and ward. All this is great – although we need to do more. It’s not too late to make another new year’s resolution: that you, too, will join the campaign for green skills in 2012. Barry Francis, Regional Manager 2

GMB learners celebrate success

GMB General Secretary Paul Kenny (back row, centre) toasts his members’ achievements

GMB learners at the Community and Trade Union (CTU) Learning Centre at the Olympic Park celebrated their achievements at a special event in the autumn featuring leading lights from the Olympic Delivery Authority (ODA), security company G4S, unionlearn and the GMB itself. The dedicated learners picked up certificates for completing Skills for Life, IT and career enhancement courses – the first some of them had ever achieved – and also received commemorative pens and Inspire badges. Unionlearn Regional Manager Barry Francis pointed out that the 600 learners who had enrolled at the CTU since it opened had taken up a massive 2,500 learning opportunities between them, thanks to the financial support of the Union Learning Fund (ULF) and the ODA for the project. GMB General Secretary and TUC President Paul Kenny said that unionlearn was at the core of what the trade union movement was all about. “It takes a tremendous amount of courage to go back into training: I am so proud of you learners, you really deserve it, and if you feel confident, then there’s nothing that can’t be achieved” he said.

“I am so proud of you learners, you really deserve it, and if you feel confident, then there’s nothing that can’t be achieved.” ODA Chief Executive Dennis Hone congratulated all the learners and warmly praised the TUC and unions for ensuring that there would be such a powerful legacy in terms of training and skills; while G4S ODA Account Director Richard West called the CTU “a fantastic resource for us”.

Photograph: Andrew Wiard

Go green in 2012

Photographs: Rod Leon

Louis strikes a chord with Cityclean staff

Louis de Bernières (centre) entertains Cityclean workers (from left) George Williams, Declan D’Arcy and Dariusz Czyzewski, and signs a book (below) for Learning and Development Officer Elaine Sweetman

When the author of Captain Corelli’s Mandolin visited the Brighton Cityclean learning centre in the autumn, the only stringed instrument in evidence was the guitar that GMB member Declan D’Arcy brought to serenade him. Declan’s Irish folk tunes went down a treat since Louis de Bernières told the refuse and recycling workers that music had been his first love. “I played in various bands and wanted

to be a rock star, but by the time I was 28, I realised that I didn’t want to be a rock star, so I wrote a book instead,” he revealed. The novel wasn’t published, but finishing it proved to him that writing was something he could do. Many of his ideas came from his own life, he said. “I used my short experience in the army and time spent in South America as the basis for plots, and the tales told me by a Yugoslav retired prostitute, who was my flatmate, eventually became A Partisan’s Daughter.” Louis spoke frankly about what it was like to have a novel turned into a major Hollywood film, which happened after Captain Corelli’s Mandolin became a massive word-of-mouth/book club hit at the end of the 1990s. The relationship between an author and the film-makers was one way, he said. “They ask your opinion and then ignore it.”

Discussing the casting of Nicholas Cage as the protagonist of the story, he said he had originally envisaged a lively Italian rather than a slow American for the role, but he had enjoyed the star’s performance, and didn’t hate the film as much as he was reputed to. There are 100 learners taking courses at the Cityclean learning centre at the moment, and it has helped more than 220 refuse and recycling workers achieve national qualifications in Skills for Life, IT and NVQs up to Level 3.

“I played in various bands and wanted to be a rock star, but by the time I was 28, I realised that I didn’t want to be a rock star, so I wrote a book instead.” 3

Unionlearn SERTUC 6th annual conference

Quick Reads author Lucy Cavendish took time out from her writing and journalistic careers to share some insights with the 290-plus participants at our annual conference in Congress House, which offered everything from policy workshops to zumba workouts.

We lo e The short novel that author Lucy Cavendish wrote for the hugely successful Quick Reads series last year is her favourite, she revealed to the 290-plus participants at unionlearn SERTUC’s annual conference. Jack And Jill, her popular story about a sister who has to speak for herself and her younger brother, still reduces her to tears, she admitted. “This is my fourth novel and it’s my favourite book – it’s a love story between a brother and sister and every single time I read the end, I cry,” she said. In addition to contributing to the Quick Reads series, aimed at emergent adult readers, Lucy also participates in a literacy programme at her local young offenders’ institution. “Reading and writing are imperative for people to have self-esteem,” she said. She also supports the campaign to keep libraries open for the communities they serve. “It’s appalling that they’re closing libraries: going to the library once a week when we were growing up was the highlight of our week,” she said. After her speech, Lucy presented a



unionlearn Quality Award to Sussex Downs College, in recognition of its excellent Skills for Life work. Teachers’ union NUT General Secretary Christine Blower told the conference that her union had been one of the earliest adopters of the union learning rep (ULR) model – indeed, she herself had trained as a ULR while still a grassroots activist. A recent survey had shown that nine out of ten NUT learning reps had helped arrange courses for their members, she said; eight out of ten had helped recruit new members; and almost all believed that learning had increased union awareness in the workplace. In addition, two-thirds of ULRs reported that learning activity had helped improve management-union relations. “I’m proud to say that I genuinely see the NUT as a learning organisation,” she said. Unite Regional Learning Organiser John Barr and Unite Southampton cab section chair Perry McMillan offered an insight into organising the self-employed with their account of the union’s learning and organising efforts in the taxi and

private hire sector. The union had been able to nip racism in the bud when some Southampton cab drivers began displaying ‘English-speaking driver’ stickers and flying the St George flag after large numbers of Afghan and Somali migrants joined the taxi trade, Perry revealed. The union raised the issue with the local authority and union members challenged the drivers involved, he said. “The situation was dealt with properly by addressing the issues on the taxi rank, which is the best way to deal with things,” he said. Unionlearn Regional Manager Barry Francis thanked participants for the hard work they had put in during what had been a somewhat difficult 12 months. “It has been a tough year in many ways: there has been the re-structuring of unionlearn SERTUC and the economic situation has made it tough for all our reps,” he said. “But I am proud to be able to stand up here today to say that we are still strong and we’re here to support the excellent work that many of you have

Every which way (from left): Unite Southampton cab section chair Perry McMillan talks about organising the selfemployed; Sussex Downs College receives its Quality Award from Lucy Cavendish; working out at a zumba class; and taking part in a conference workshop.


Reading and writing are imperative for people to have self-esteem.

© Jess Hurd/

been pioneering over the past year.” Unionlearn Director Tom Wilson, who chaired the event at Congress House in London on Tuesday 1 November, said that unions believed that investing in the workforce was the way to escape from austerity. “Hand in hand with our opposition to government cuts goes the affirmation of the good things that we stand for – learning above all,” he said. Conference participants took the opportunity to improve their understanding of 10 key areas of ULR work in the workshops on offer at the event: health and well-being at work; equality and diversity; accessing higher education; social media; apprenticeships; Skills for Life; Collective Learning Funds; community learning; green skills; and working with Macmillan. And before the conference drew to a close, everyone took the chance to try their hands (and feet, in some cases) at five different informal learning activities: creative writing, family history, BBC First Click, zumba and Tai Chi.


Christine Blower Q& A What attracted you to the teaching profession in the first place? When I was still in secondary school I had a plan to be a probation officer because I always wanted to help young people get back onto the straight and narrow. But it made sense to work with children who hadn’t gone off the straight and narrow first, to understand how they worked, so the logical thing for me to do was to become a teacher. And I enjoyed it so much I never thought about moving away.

What did you most enjoy in your career as a teacher? I worked in three secondary schools, eventually becoming head of modern foreign languages, but always being in the role of dealing with kids whose behaviour was a problem. Eventually I decided that I enjoyed dealing with the difficult children at least as much if not more than the straightforward teaching, so I moved into working in what we would now call a Pupil Referral Unit (PRU). Ultimately, I moved into primary schools as a peripatetic, dealing with children with challenging or unsettled behaviour: working in the primary phase is a much harder job than working in the secondary phase, but very much more rewarding.

How did the NUT help you progress as a teacher and a union activist?

Learning from the teachers Every union should aim to become a learning organisation, according to Christine Blower, general secretary of the National Union of Teachers.


Both professionally speaking and as a trade unionist deeply concerned with people’s terms and conditions, the NUT has been the organisation on which I have relied throughout. In the early days, we didn’t have people who were called learning reps but we always had a Continuous Professional Development (CPD) programme from very early on. I was a teacher in the ILEA and we would have teach-ins on how best to approach particular things, which taught me the value of trade unionism: there were lots of things we wanted to pursue in terms of improving pay and working conditions for teachers, but we always had a weather eye on pedagogy and making sure we understood how best children learn.

I was already a divisional secretary when I trained as union learning rep. I had already done quite a lot of work that is covered by the role of the ULR, signposting people to CPD that the union had available, so it just seemed an absolutely logical progression to do the ULR training.

What have you got most out of the learning and training you have done? All the training I’ve ever done has provided the opportunity to reflect on how I’m doing things and whether I could do them better. It’s very hard to find time in the working day, and pretty much impossible at the weekend, to reflect on your practice, either professionally as a teacher or how you do your trade union work.

I go to lots of conferences where I’m the keynote speaker, but the audience will be somewhat varied, whereas when you’re on an NUT course or TUC course, you can be pretty confident that you’re in a room full of like-minded people who are actually seeking the same kind of outcomes from the activity that you are, and I think that’s very good for building comradeship across the movement.

Has the NUT’s CPD programme helped build union organisation on the ground? For many of the ULRs we’ve trained in the NUT, that is their first trade union role – and they absolutely love it. And because they like it so much, they then go and talk to other people about the great things you can do through the NUT, so there is a fantastic spin-off into recruiting members. Because we’ve always seen ourselves as a learning organisation, I think our CPD programme has probably done less to change perceptions of us as a union than in other unions where learning was never thought of as a particularly high priority before.

One of the things we want to do in our CPD programme is to make sure that people feel they have a proper professional underpinning for the things they’ve been asked to do. When the literacy strategy was in full swing under the previous Government, we provided courses on teaching literacy through drama so people would think about teaching reading in a slightly different way to the previous Government’s rather mechanistic approach, and we continue to look at creative ways of dealing with the curriculum. One of the other aspects of the CPD programme that I’m keen on is the strand called ‘Globalising Learning,’ which is obviously about bringing the global context into the classroom. Not only can we do lots of work on Fairtrade, for example, but we can also look at how globalisation is one thing from the neo-liberal perspective, while we have a completely different approach, which is international solidarity. I’m very keen on that because it gives members a different perspective on the way they can deal with the curriculum in the classroom and it’s attractive to members at all ages, particularly to young members.

Christine Blower CV Christine was born and educated in Kingston-upon-Thames, and has been a member of the National Union of Teachers ever since she started teaching in 1973 at Holland Park School, in west London. After 17 years working in secondary schools, Christine decided to concentrate on working with children with behavioural issues, eventually becoming a peripatetic member of the Primary Behaviour Support team in the London Borough of Hammersmith and Fulham. In 2005, Christine was elected Deputy General Secretary of the NUT, became Acting General Secretary in 2008 and was elected General Secretary in 2009.

© Jess Hurd/

“Training provides the opportunity to reflect on how I’m doing things and whether I could do them better.”

What are your priorities for the future development of the CPD programme?

What are your priorities as a member of the unionlearn Board? We’re very pleased that the Government hasn’t sought to get rid of our funding because they can see there is so much merit in it. I would like to make sure that unionlearn continues to have a high priority and that more unions understand that there are very many positives for their members at all levels through learning. The major job of the unionlearn Board is to make sure that all unions buy into the idea of unions as learning institutions and make sure they provide the maximum number of opportunities for members wherever they are and whatever their enthusiasms are.



Time for change (from left): BT Head of Skills Development Andy Palmer, UNISON Assistant General Secretary Roger McKenzie and TUC Race Equality Officer Wilf Sullivan discuss how to increase diversity in apprenticeships, while BT Apprentice Ebere Osuji (right) offered his perspective

We must remove the obstacles that prevent many young people from Black and minority ethnic (BME) communities from accessing the training opportunities open to their white counterparts, a unionlearn SERTUC conference heard in the autumn. BME youngsters have poorer access to education and training, such as apprenticeships, than white people, and almost half are not in employment, education or training (NEET), unionlearn Director Tom Wilson told the Apprenticeships For All event in Congress House. “Many of the areas hit by the riots are also areas of high unemployment among BME youth: too many of these young people are being shut out of the labour market,” he argued. “We are here today to see how unions, employers, government agencies and


local communities can make a special effort to get BME young people interested in quality apprenticeships.” Although young people from BME backgrounds make up 22 per cent of the school cohort, they comprise only 8 per cent of apprentices overall, and there is enormous variation by employment sector and region. “This suggests that there is a big drop-off of BME learners from school going into apprenticeships,” pointed out Simon Tepper, director of Versa Professional Services, a consultancy for post-16 education and training. TUC Race Equality Policy Officer Wilf Sullivan, who chaired a panel of experts, said radical action was needed to ensure that the labour market marginalisation of the BME community was not perpetuated for another generation. “The TUC will be impressing upon Government that it must inject cash into

the apprenticeship programme to ensure that BME young people can find a quality route into the workforce,” he said. The experts panel included Versa’s Apprenticeship Officer Meena Bahra; BT Head of Skills Development Andy Palmer; BT apprentice Ebere Osuji; National Apprenticeship Service Employer Services Director Jon Thorn; and UNISON Assistant Secretary Roger McKenzie. Unionlearn SERTUC regional manager Barry Francis said the conference was just the beginning. “Unions will be driving this agenda forward at the highest level and will be negotiating for equality and diversity training for managers,” he said. “We will be galvanising our networks of union learning reps to work with employers to provide quality apprenticeships for all.”

Photographs: Rod Leon

Opening up apprenticeships to everyone

The Stephen Lawrence Centre is opening its doors to local learners

What unions can do Unions have a central role in working with employers and providers to ensure that apprenticeships on offer are of high quality, open to all and lead on to a job and career progression. ULRs, shop stewards and other reps can also play an important role in acting as mentors to young apprentices in the workplace, especially during their first three months, when support can make all the difference.

National Apprenticeship Week 6 - 10 February 2012

Encouraging diversity in the next generation Unionlearn SERTUC is working with the Stephen Lawrence Charitable Trust to stage a joint event during National Apprenticeship Week in February aimed at encouraging greater diversity among the next wave of apprentices. The event, to be held at the Trust’s headquarters in Deptford, south-east London, is one way of joining the dots between two organisations with very similar objectives, says Programme Manager Eleanor Howard. “We’re a learning centre, we have great IT facilities and we have very similar objectives about engaging with people: the event in February is a really nice example of getting the message out there about what unionlearn is doing and what we’re doing as well,” she says. “Like unionlearn, we want to remove the obstacles that prevent people from achieving their potential, by building their confidence to help them progress or removing institutional barriers that stand in their way.” As it was Stephen’s plan to train as an architect, the Trust was originally set up to help young people access careers in architecture, and it’s supported more than 100 young people doing that, eight of whom are now fully qualified. Now the Trust is keen to broaden its agenda, and has launched the 1818 campaign (Stephen was aged 18 when he

died 18 years ago) to support its education and employability programmes. “The trust has always been well known for its work supporting young people who want to study architecture but we’ve been doing a lot more than that, and the 1818 campaign helps us send out that message about our other programmes and activities,” Eleanor explains. “We’re calling one of the areas Professionally Prepared, which is building on the track record we have in the architecture and built environment sector, working with young people to help them build their careers, their leadership skills, and help create a more diverse workforce,” she says. “The other area of work we’re really interested in is what we’re calling Job Ready, which is aimed at people in our local area in Greenwich and Lewisham, running our Jobs Club, employability programmes, and courses.” In addition, the centre is launching a creative programme including a drop-in art club in early 2012. “We’ve got great creative facilities here – a fantastic art room, and Apple Mac computers – and we’re really interested in exploring more how creative activities can unlock other forms of learning,” Eleanor says. Just Giving: please support the Stephen Lawrence Charitable Trust: text the word ‘SLCT18’ followed by either £3, £4, £5 or £10 to 70070 e.g. ‘SLCT18 £10’ to 70070


Photograph: Marley Showler

CWU ULR Parminder Kaur opens the Heathrow learning centre flanked by the CWU’s Trish Lavelle (left) and Royal Mail’s Dave Cunnington

Postal workers ready for take-off at Heathrow Communications union CWU General Secretary Billy Hayes joined workers and union reps at Royal Mail’s Heathrow Worldwide Distribution Centre (HWDC) to open a new onsite learning centre in the autumn. The broadband-enabled centre means HWDC staff can now access a range of CWU and West Thames College courses that space constraints prevented them from doing before, and can use the facilities as a drop-in centre for specific courses or to pursue their own studies. “Lifelong learning through trade unions demonstrates that where support and resources are provided, education and learning opportunities can play a crucial role in maintaining a motivated, loyal and highly skilled workforce,” Billy said.


“In providing people the opportunity to learn new skills, we help them find the confidence to move forward to who knows where – and in turn, we all offer society a confident, skilled and imaginative group of people who add to our collective potential and abilities.” He praised CWU South East No. 5 branch lead ULR Parminder Kaur, who helped secure money from the Union Learning Fund (ULF) and persuaded management to back the project. “The CWU has over 1,000 ULRs like Parminder who are organising learning opportunities on a daily basis in workplaces around the country and they really are a credit to the union,” he said. Parminder herself said becoming an active ULR had shown her what unions could do in the workplace.

“Since I started working with the CWU, I have realised how effective unions can be: they are organisations that really help people, and I am grateful to the management team at HWDC who are supporting us as well,” she said. CWU South East Regional learning project worker Joe Showler also paid tribute to Parminder’s excellent work: “It is a large, multi-cultural workforce and Parminder has created good relations through the courses in English, maths and computer skills and by putting on social events, such as trips to Weymouth,” he said. “The management has been very supportive and understands that the company as well as the staff stands to benefit.”

Prospect President Nigel Titchen (right) hands the union learning award to JIC team members (from left) Gill Ashby, Tom Betteridge and Sarah Tolland

Plant science team blossom in Norwich The learning rep team of Gill Ashby, Tom Betteridge and Sarah Tolland at the John Innes Centre (JIC) have won the Union Learning Section of the Year Award from their union, Prospect. The trio, based at the independent centre of excellence in plant science and microbiology in Norwich, took the prize for the successful Learning At Work Weeks they ran in partnership with the PCS and JIC management in 2009 and 2010. The team built on the first Learning At Work Week it put together in 2009. “In 2010, we learned from the feedback from the first event, and spread the activities more evenly throughout a week,” Gill explained. The change proved extremely effective. In 2010, more than 100 people took part in sessions on everything from computer brush-up and speed reading to growing vegetables and writing

a will, while archery and Pilates attracted so much interest that the team has run ongoing classes. “It was very rewarding to see the large numbers of people who signed up for the events and the positive feedback from them,” Gill said. Prospect President Nigel Titchen presented Gill, Tom and Sarah with their award at a campus-wide Health and Well-Being Expo last summer, when they were able to use their Learning At Work Week experiences to help organise as part of a cross-site team. At least 350 people took part in the successful and enjoyable event, which featured talks on issues from bullying to the health benefits of chocolate; massage, reflexology and yoga sessions; plus a mini sports day, hog roast and live music.

Every little helps in Hastings With the help of their divisional mobile ULR Peter Chalklin, USDAW learning reps Sandra Crowhurst and Maura Winchester threw a celebratory party for everyone who completed the Six Book Challenge at the Tesco Extra store in Hastings last year.

Photo: Wanda Wyporska

USDAW Divisional Officer Jim Carty (far left) celebrates Six Book success with ULRs Sandra Crowhurst, Peter Chalklin, Mitch Pressnell and Maura Winchester

“We are so pleased with the enthusiasm shown by learners here that we are already planning to replicate it in stores all over the region.”

There were certificates for everyone for read their six books and kept their reading diaries, and a raffle with a range of great prizes, including an Amazon Kindle e-reader, supplied by the supermarket (unionlearn SERTUC provided the books for readers). Unionlearn Regional Manager Barry Francis offered his warmest congratulations to all those who received their certificates at the event. “This is another great example of where the Six Book Challenge has encouraged workers to engage with reading, and the work USDAW and their ULRs are doing in Hastings with their members is superb,” he said. USDAW Divisional Officer Jim Carty, who drew the raffle, pointed out it was great to celebrate union learning in the town that formed the basis of Mugsborough, the setting for Robert Tressell’s working class classic The Ragged Trousered Philanthropists. “We are so pleased with the enthusiasm shown by learners here that we are already planning to replicate it in stores all over the region,” he said.


Contacts Unionlearn Southern and Eastern Region Congress House Great Russell Street London WC1B 3LS

020 7467 1251

Regional education office

020 7467 1284

020 3288 5520

Regional Manager Barry Francis

Regional Coordinator Jon Tennison

Community and Trade Union Learning Centre Manager Phil Spry

Senior Union Support Officers Mick Hadgraft Stuart Barber

Union Support Officers Adrian Ryan Oreleo Du Cran Joanna Lucyszyn

Field Worker Jane Warwick

Health Work and Well-Being Thursday 1 March at The Working Men’s College, London NW1 1TR (the college for women and men). Keynote speakers: TUC Assistant General Secretary Kay Carberry, Department for Work and Pensions Chief Medical Adviser and Health, Work and Wellbeing Director Bill Gunnyeon For further information, please contact Jon Tennison. Email: Tel: 020 7467 1212.

Hampshire ULR network meeting Southampton, Wednesday 15 February, 10:30am–3:30pm Find out about the latest changes in policy and funding. This meeting will also feature: • ideas for Learning at Work Day • a ‘Maths Messengers’ course, a session that helps reps overcome any hesitancy about numeracy • an update on Information, Advice and Guidance (IAG) services. It will offer a good opportunity to meet local colleges and others to exchange information and organise learning across the local area.

Gatwick local network meeting

Regional Education Officers Rob Hancock Theresa Daly

Quick Reads 2012 launch Galaxy Quick Reads are launching eight new titles in February. Find out more at

Outreach office Community and Trade Union Learning Centre

Dates for your diary

Crawley Library, Friday 9 March, 10:30am–3:30pm This meeting will feature ideas for Learning at Work Day 2012, and an update on Information, Advice and Guidance (IAG) services. It will offer a chance to meet local colleges and others to exchange information and organise learning across the local area.

Norfolk and Suffolk unionlearn forum Administration Sonia Dawson Johanna Garcia Jaspal Ghtoray Tanya Nelson

Cover photo of Lucy Cavendish at the unionlearn SERTUC conference by Jess Hurd/


Millennium Library Norwich, Thursday 22 March, 10:30am–3:30pm This meeting will feature ideas for Learning at Work Day 2012 and an update on Information, Advice and Guidance (IAG) services. It is a chance to meet up with local colleges and others to exchange information and organise learning across the local area. The forum is open to union reps, ULRs, union officers and anyone else living or working in the Norfolk & Suffolk area with an interest in workplace learning. All three events are free of charge and include a buffet lunch. To book your place or request more information, please contact Johanna Garcia. Email Tel 0207 467 1342

update - Southern and Eastern Region magazine (Spring 2012)  

With worrying indications that the UK economy is looking ever more likely to slip back into recession, it’s vital the trade union movement d...

update - Southern and Eastern Region magazine (Spring 2012)  

With worrying indications that the UK economy is looking ever more likely to slip back into recession, it’s vital the trade union movement d...