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Impact of unions on learning and vice versa

Thanks to the union learning fund (ULF), unions enable and encourage workplace learning. Favourable industrial relations are very crucial for the success of the learning initiatives and the sustainability of these initiatives depended on the continued management support. Case studies on the effects of workplace learning led by unions showed that employers saw possibilities of mutual gains from learning, mainly because of earlier positive experiences from formal or informal partnerships. The workplace learning facilitated cooperative methodology with the management for mutual gains.

Case studies reveal that some local management encouraged union membership to offset the high labour turnover and low skill base. Encouraging union membership also served as a stabilising factor. It was also seen that the management participated in the union learning for several reasons. Some adopted the workplace learning to induce a cultural shift towards a more inclusive agenda. The different types of learning are provided through the union led workplace learning. These include personal development, job related development and a combination of both together.

The employability of the workers were enhanced through job specific vocational learning, literacy classes, driving lessons, assertiveness training and numeracy classes. Both work-related and non-work-related learning is imparted in the workplace learning. Both these learning can benefit the employers and the employees. Learners are benefited for the work and life-related benefits. The employers are benefited directly or indirectly from any learning. The learning programmes also helped minority and other disadvantaged groups to improve Union involvement in workplace learning 17 their career prospects through promotions.

The managements of the participating firms felt that participating would enable the organisation to be viewed as a ‘good employer’ by the employees. In some cases, the workers became aware of the union and the benefits union can bring upon them, only when the learning agenda was introduced. The learning agenda created better positive perception of unions among employees and existing members, and made them aware of the importance and role of unions in their workplaces. The role and purpose of the union became more apparent, thus attracting many new members and increased participation.

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