Sunday, February 18, 2007

Signed Sealed & Delivered!

On 12 February 2007 Barnet UNISON and Barnet Council held a Skills for Life Open day and and received the National GO Award. Although awards can be seen as tick box awards with little or no impact on staff in this case I would have to disagree. The impact on Learners lives both at work and at home has truly been ‘Life Changing’

Since we signed our Learning Agreement in October 2005, Life Long Learning has been at the heart of our branch activities. Within four weeks of the signing the agreement we had an IT suite for staff to start our Return2learn courses. From January to July 2006 we ran 10 courses for almost 150 staff working down our depot. For some staff it was the first time a Trade Union had really spent any time with them.

This January the programme of courses has started again with two school staff courses starting, an ESOL course for staff working for the local cleaning contractors and one course for Housing 21 (Home Care provider).

The team of ULRs under the leadership of our Life Long Learning Coordinator (Carmen Bruno) have managed to spread the message of Life Long Learning across the Council and the Council’s business partners. It was then fantastic news to hear that Carmen and her team had received a national award (the IDea (Improvement and Development Agency for Local Government) award) for the best Union Learner Rep team.

The GO Award and the National ULR award mark a new stage in the development of Life Long Learning in Barnet. Usually when an organisation signs up for GO Award, they have 6 months to develop an Action Plan, which if approved means achieving the GO Award. In Barnet we signed up and achieved the GO Award all on the same day. It has been hard work but the Action Plan now provides the Council with some serious targets over the next two years.

Often Trade Union work is adversarial, this work has been totally the opposite. I feel that it is the most rewarding work I have been involved with in almost 25 years of involvement in Trade Unions.

It’s Life Changing
This does sum up what these courses have meant to staff. Our tutor claims he has seen Learners visibly grow in confidence as they progress through the courses.

The Future
We are looking forward to the relocation of the training facilities in the Depot to something more secure and suitable learning environment. We hope that sometime in the near future we will be able to secure time off for our ULRs to staff the IT suite in order to facilitate staff to practise using the IT and perhaps take the National Tests.

Message for all branches
Get Involved! It is an excellent recruitment initiative. It raises the profile of the Union within the work place. It provides a different space for dialogue with your employer.

But lastly and most importantly it provides a second chance for a large group of staff who are have been consistently ignored, poor paid and therefore denied opportunities to progress not just within the work place but the wider society as a whole.

John Burgess – Branch Secretary

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