Janette Dunbar wins lifelong learning award

24 Apr


The Scottish Trades Union Congress (STUC) has announced that the recipient of this year’s STUC Helen Dowie Award for Lifelong Learning is Janette Dunbar, a Unite Union Learning Representative at Diageo in Kilmarnock.

Sponsored by Inverness College UHI, the award was be presented today by First Minister Alex Salmond MSP.

Diageo Kilmarnock was the home of Johnnie Walker Whisky. After the employer announced controversial plans in late 2009 to close the Kilmarnock plant, Janette was in the forefront of fighting to save the hundreds of jobs at the site. Upon being elected as the Site Convenor in 2010, Janette put her organising abilities and dynamic style into action as she became the driving force behind supporting members through the ‘ins and outs’ of the redundancy situation.

Janette decided that a lifelong learning programme for the site was the best avenue to support workers during the site closure. In February 2011, Janette was trained as a Union Learning Rep along with a group of other trade union activists. She then set about the task of analysing the learning and training needs of those who were faced with redundancy.

Unite member Myra Scoular said, “Facing redundancy was a daunting time, after working at Johnnie Walker for decades. I would not have had the confidence to try courses if it was not for Janette organising and bringing the courses into the workplace.”

Christine Duffy, another Unite member, said, “I have successfully completed a few courses, including computing and understanding pensions, and I will continue to learn when I leave Diageo. I would not have undertaken this journey if it was not for Janette and the other ULRs.”

In just over a year as the Lead Union Learning Rep for the site, Janette analysed 730 learning requests and collectively bargained around these with the employer and external learning partners, including PACE, to provide courses for Unite members at Diageo Kilmarnock. Janette addressed the frustration felt by the workers on site by organising learning opportunities in the workplace and delivering them around members’ shift times and days off.

Upon receiving the award, Janette said, “I am absolutely delighted to receive this honour. It has been a great learning curve for me and it has been even better to have shared the experience with so many people along the way who now have the confidence to take learning to another level.”

The STUC established the STUC Helen Dowie Award for Lifelong Learning in 2006 to commemorate Helen Dowie’s lifetime achievements in lifelong learning and to recognise other outstanding trade unionists who demonstrate their commitment to union values and lead the learning movement forward in Scotland. The award is administered by Scottish Union Learning.

Grahame Smith, STUC General Secretary, said:

“In the current atmosphere of austerity, many workers in Scotland face concerns about their prospects and future job security. By offering learning opportunities, unions are enhancing the life chances of the workforce as a whole.

“For her unfailing commitment to the trade union movement, put into practise as a Union Learning Rep in supporting the people she has worked with for most of her life, Janette Dunbar is a shining example of how Union Learning Reps can help shape a better future for their colleagues and her actions at Diageo Kilmarnock demonstrate the relevance of trade unions in the modern workplace.”

Pat Rafferty, Unite Scottish Secretary, said:

“Unite is delighted that Janette Dunbar has received the STUC Helen Dowie Award in recognition for the work she has done for Unite members at Diageo Kilmarnock as Lead Union Learning Rep and Convenor for the site.

“Janette and her team of ULRs have given opportunities in learning and training to members facing redundancy at Diageo Kilmarnock that would not have been possible without her drive, dedication and determination.

“It should not be forgotten that the learning programme at Diageo Kilmarnock would not have been successful without facility agreements around paid release for union representatives.

“Yet again, this award demonstrates the positive contribution that Unite Union Representatives make to the workplace where decent facility time is allocated to them.”

Pauline Rooney, Diageo Kilmarnock Site Director, said:

“We are delighted that Janette has been recognised by the STUC for this prestigious award. It recognises the unstinting support that she provided to her colleagues in what was a very difficult time at Diageo Kilmarnock. By championing the benefits of training and bringing tailored courses to the site, she encouraged many people who would not have previously considered training to extend their horizons. Her contribution played a key role in securing the best outcomes for our people through the closure programme and for that, we extend our thanks.

David Hosey, Inverness College UHI Vice Principal, said:

“As both a college for the community and a key partner in the establishment and continuing development of the University of the Highlands and Islands, Inverness College has an inherent interest in Lifelong Learning. The Board of Management and all staff are fully committed to providing support, encouragement and guidance, to attract potential learners and fully support their individual needs as they progress through the learner journey. We are therefore proud and delighted to sponsor the STUC Helen Dowie Award for 2012. The example provided embodies the ethos of supporting others and helping them reach their full potential. Well done Janette!”

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