Negotiating a Learning Agreement

13 Apr

The key to a successful lifelong learning programme is to negotiate a good learning agreement with your employer. A learning agreement commits the union and the employer to work together to improve access to learning and skills for staff. It establishes collective bargaining structures that allow us to negotiate around skills and give our members the best possible opportunities to develop.

A useful principle of collective bargaining is that it should always happen at the highest level possible, so that the maximum amount of people can benefit, and so that good practice becomes standard. Therefore, if you work for a large company with branches across the country, getting a national agreement is a good idea. However, this is not always possible, and sometimes it is necessary to negotiate local agreements at site level. These can be used as pilot schemes before rolling out the agreement to the rest of the organisation.

You can download a copy of a Unite model learning agreement here. It is a simple agreement that calls for the establishment of a Learning Partnership Committee, consisting of union and company representatives.

Typically, this Committee will meet regularly to discuss learning and skills issues, including developing learning surveys, delivering courses and funding learning. Ideally, the Committee should link into other negotiating structures, so that learning and skills becomes a key bargaining issue, and the right to access learning is incorporated in terms and conditions.

A good learning agreement creates a healthy industrial relations environment, and is good for employers too. By working with the union, employers can access training opportunities for staff, and draw on the union’s lifelong learning expertise.

Once you have agreed to a learning agreement, it is often useful to hold a public signing to celebrate the event. You can consider inviting your MP or MSP, or another speaker. The signing of a learning agreement is a good news story, because it is about cooperation between the employer and the union to bring opportunities to members. It is worth getting some publicity for it.

If you would like to negotiate a learning agreement in your workplace, and set up a Learning Partnership Committee, please get in touch. Our negotiators will help you to build a case for a learning agreement.

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