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Unite Learning Reps Organising Learning & the Workplace

30 Oct

During the last few months Unite Learning Reps from different employers including BAE Systems, Rolls-Royce, Strathclyde Partnership for Transport, Mahle Engine Systems and British Airways have been carrying out Learning Needs Surveys within their workplaces.

The workplace Learning surveys have had a great response with thousands of learning requests from our members wanting to take up Unite’s Life Long Learning Opportunities. The learning requests of the members are now being delivered upon within workplaces with the commencing of courses this quarter within the surveyed workplaces.

Unite Govan Shipyard Convenor Billy McKay presents prize voucher to Lyndsey Gray along with Unite Regional Learning Organiser Pat Mcilvogue

The ULRs used different methods of surveying their workplaces that best suited the members within that employer. Some used a hard printed copy of their survey other used electronic copies circulated by email. All surveys were bespoken to each workplace and sector.

Regardless of which method of circulation and collection the ULRs used they used Survey Monkey an online survey tool that provides sophisticated analysis of responses to analyse the responses. The analysis of these workplace surveys are also a great Organising tool for our Unite workplace committees, providing then with valuable data that can be used for Organising, Mapping and Collective Bargaining purposes within the workplace.




An example of the Survey results from BAE Systems Clyde shipyards can be seen below.





‘Unique’ double award for Scottish Union Learning Rep

10 Sep

A Unite Union Learning Rep (ULR) from Scotland will receive a unique double at the TUC Congress in Brighton this Tuesday morning (11th September) for her work at the former Johnnie Walker factory in Kilmarnock.

Janette Dunbar, who also received the Helen Dowie Award for Lifelong Learning at the STUC Congress in April, will be presented with the TUC Union Learning Rep Award for 2012 – the highest UK accolade ULRs can receive in the movement.

Janette’s work is a story of hope in the midst of heartbreak, set against the backdrop of Diageo’s closure of the historic Johnnie Walker bottling factory and a demonstration of trade union learning’s invaluable role in developing the qualifications and skills of people.

Along with her fellow ULRs, Janette developed a lifelong learning programme to support workers impacted by the closure.  In over one year, they analysed over 700 learning requests and collectively bargained with Diageo and external learning partners to provide learning opportunities for Unite members at Johnnie Walker in Kilmarnock.

Janette said, “It is beyond any expectations we could ever have to achieve a double award for our Lifelong Learning programme at Johnnie Walker. 

It proves to our members and anyone else intrigued by trade union education that even when workers are being thrown on the scrap-heap by their employers, when one door closes another can open through union learning.”

Unite Scottish Secretary Pat Rafferty said, “What Janette has achieved is remarkable, addressing the total despair felt by her colleagues by organising workplace learning opportunities delivered around shift times and days off. 

Janette, along with her fellow workplace ULRs and with the support of our dedicated Learning Organisers, has provided hope and opportunity for workers facing redundancy through the learning agenda – that’s invaluable. 

It should also not be forgotten that the learning programme at Johnnie Walker would not have been successful without facility agreements around paid release for union representatives. Yet again, this demonstrates the economic, social and very human contribution that ULRs can make where facility time agreements are in place. 

Janette’s unique double represents the very best of Scottish trade unionism and today we celebrate this success.” 


Notes:  Janette Dunbar will receive the TUC Union Learning Award at TUC Congress 2012 on Tuesday 11th September at the Brighton Centre.  This will take place during the morning session.

For further information please contact Unite Scotland Learning Organiser Pat Mcilvogue on 07918631805 or Peter Welsh in Unite Scotland Communications on 07810157931.


Unite Scotland & The Ragged Trousered Philanthropists – Edinburgh Fringe & Special Events

19 Jun

Unite Scotland is dipping its toe into the arts this summer!  We’re delighted to help sponsor Townsend Production’s new two handed version of Stephen Lowe’s play based on the classic Tressell book, The Ragged Trousered Philanthropists.

The play will be running everyday at the Edinburgh Fringe from 1st – 27th August, 12PM at the Assembly George Square Two. Tickets can be purchased online now.

The inspiration and roots of Tressell’s story are fuelled by anger at increasing political ineptitude and social inequality and the need for an alternative, a better way. Arguably, many of the story’s key themes still resonate over a century later; the game hasn’t changed much since 1914.

We’re hoping this play provokes curiosity and questioning in the audience of the world we live in today and how the levers of power are controlled, whether you are a trade unionist or not.  Above all, it’ll be a really enjoyable show!

As part of our work with Townsend Productions we’re also excited to host two events in advance of the play’s run which we’re calling: Revisiting the themes of the Ragged Trousered Philanthropists’ An evening of working class debate, entertainment, beer & sandwiches.

These events will be free and open to all on a first come first serve basis until the respective venue capacities are reached. They will take place on:

  • Thursday 5th July, John Smith House (5th floor), 145-165 West Regent Street, Glasgow, G2 4RZ, from 6PM to 9PM.
  • Tuesday 31st July, Committee Room 1, Scottish Parliament, Edinburgh, from 6PM to 9PM.

We’ll have speakers discussing the contemporary political and social relevance of the Ragged Trousered Philanthropists, encouraging debate from the audience on the parallels between the 1900s and today’s Britain, and we’ll have live enactments from the play for your entertainment…we’ll also provide the beer and sandwiches!

  • To confirm your attendance at the Glasgow event, please contact Peter Welsh in the Unite Scotland Campaigns Unit on 07810157931 or

You can also get all the up to date information on the play via:

twitter @raggedtour A5 Hertford on the frontBack of Leaflet GOLD MAY 2012

One year of trade union learning success at Kilmarnock engineering plant

14 Jun

Unite members at Mahle Engine Systems in Kilmarnock are celebrating the first anniversary of their highly successful trade union learning agreement, ‘Racing Forward with Learning at MAHLE Engine Systems’.

Last May the landmark agreement was signed by Unite Scottish Secretary Pat Rafferty and the German automotive manufacturer’s Site Manager Jim English, resulting in over 530 learning and training requests while delivering over 1,000 hours of learning in subjects like literacy support, German, pensions and industry-based accreditations.

The agreement also includes the provision of a bespoke on-site trade union learning facility and trade union office, 5 workplace learning representatives and a fortnightly union – management steering group to oversee the delivery of the workplace learning programme.

Unite Scottish Secretary Pat Rafferty said, “This is a gold-standard learning agreement, a benchmark across the industry and the wider Scottish economy that demonstrates the value of trade unions and employers working together to deliver a learning agenda.

This huge demand for learning also reflects the appetite for up-skilling from our members in Kilmarnock – ably assisted by our hard-working Unite learning organisers who help deliver the programme – which they largely fulfill in their own time.

It’s a win-win situation for everyone involved but most importantly we are giving working people the opportunity to personally and collectively improve their skills and learning abilities – you cannot put a price on that.”

Alison Bryson Mahle Human Resource Manager said: “Entering into lifelong learning in a partnership approach with Unite learning reps on site has been really successful. Employees have been asked about their learning needs and courses have been arranged to meet those needs at times to suit both the company and the individuals. It’s really good to see people learning new skills”


Notes to Editors:

For further information please contact:

Pat Mcilvogue Unite Regional Learning Organiser on 07918631805;

Peter Welsh in the Unite Scotland Campaigns Unit on 07810157931; or

Alison Bryson, Head of Human Resources MAHLE Engine Systems Kilmarnock, on 07733301632.


  • Union Learning Reps are workplace reps, recognised under the Employment Act (2002). They have similar rights to time off and facilities as Shop Stewards and Health and Safety reps. Their remit is to promote lifelong learning in the workplace.
  • Unite has learning agreements with many of Scotland’s key employers, including Rolls-Royce, SPT, First Group, National Australia Group, Remploy, and various local authorities and NHS Boards.
  • Where we have signed learning agreements, we work with employers to promote learning and skills in the workplace.
  • We work in partnership with FE colleges to provide accredited training. We sign service level agreements with colleges to ensure our members get high quality tuition delivered in the workplace.
  • Workplace learning is free at the point of access, and funded in a variety of ways, including through employers’ training budgets, ILA, ESF & Glasgow Learning.
  • MAHLE is a leading global development partner for the automotive and engine industry, MAHLE offers unique systems competence in the internal combustion engine and engine peripherals. The MAHLE Group ranks among the top three systems suppliers worldwide for piston systems, cylinder components, as well as valve train, air management, and liquid management systems. Almost all automobile and engine manufacturers around the world are customers of MAHLE


Rolls-Royce East Kilbride Learning Programme Successes 2012

14 Jun

The lifelong learning programme at Rolls-Royce East Kilbride continues to provide quality learning opportunities to Unite members on site. The ULRs on site recently conducted a learning survey, and members responded with 409 learning requests in February this year. As part of the survey a prize draw was held for completed surveys and John Hogg pictured below was the lucky winner of a £50 shopping voucher.

The ULRs for the site have a structured organised approached for the learning programme. There is a Steering Group meeting with HR & Management representatives every 3 weeks which overviews the requirements of the learning programme. The ULRs monitor their progress with the use of a 12 month plan shown in the following link; RR_EK_ULR_12_Month_Plan_2012.

Unite member John Hogg receives his prize from Regional Learning Organiser

Pat McIlvogue & Lead Shop Steward & ULR John Craig

The learning programme at Rolls-Royce East Kilbride has already this year delivered two British Sign Language courses, two Understanding Pensions courses and two Cohorts on an Engineering Degree course with the Open University.

Sign Language courses were organised by the ULRs in response to a deaf apprentice entering his permanent work area on the completion of his apprenticeship. The ULRs organised the Sign Language course so his colleagues in his work area on both shifts could communicate with him.

The Understanding Pensions courses gave members a basic understanding of pensions, before moving on to specifics with their Rolls-Royce pension schemes. The final session was delivered by a Unite Pensions Trustee for the schemes, who also conducted a question & answer session at the end of the course.

There are now 14 members at Rolls-Royce East Kilbride currently on the Open University BEng Degree programme at the East Kilbride site with all members progressing well. All members have passed the tutor marked assessments with an average pass rate of 80%. The ULRs also have a further 10 members waiting to join to the BEng Degree programme in October.

These wonderful learning opportunities for Unite members would not be possible without the selfless work of ULRs Mark Tweddle, Brian Ronald & John Craig. The group of ULRs at East Kilbride is being boosted by the training of Robert Imire as a new ULR this week. Robert, who himself is on the BEng Degree course, wanted to train as a ULR to help give something back to other Unite members for the opportunities the programme has facilitated for him.  This is a great example of the true spirit of collectivism in action.



Learning for Success in RBS

25 May

The lifelong learning agenda has been gaining momentum for a while now, but it has been generating new interest recently due to a number of high-profile successes across several workplaces.  These represent not just success for organising, learning or membership numbers, but success for our members at the grass-roots level, with more and more accessing opportunities which previously they have never been able to.  The Royal Bank of Scotland Mortgage Centre at Greenock is a fantastic example of this.

In November 2010 the site had a very low density of members, and a number of industrial issues, with a need for a clear strategy to organise around.  With this in mind Unite decided to use learning as a tool to engage and educate members, and encourage non-members to join. The first step in this process was the recruitment of Union Learning Rep Sonya Cassidy, who is a passionate advocate of learning in the workplace and has become a driving force in the success of this programme.

Sonya’s motivation to improve life for her members, and to recruit new members was evident from the beginning, and activity began straight away when she completed her training as a ULR. It was clear that in order to get the project going the buy-in of the employer was essential, and working together with Workplace Rep Stephen McCauley, Sonya successfully achieved an agreement from the bank in February 2011 to organise a comprehensive workplace learning programme.

With the employer buy-in secured Sonya and Stephen met with Stow College to discuss their workplace learning programme and look at the courses which would be most relevant and interesting to staff at the bank.  Stow put together a bespoke offering of courses which would best meet the aims and needs of the RBS Greenock workforce.  Working to ensure there was a structure in place on site to support this course offering, Sonya and Stephen negotiated again with the employer to secure appropriate facilities for the courses to be run on-site at times which would best suit staff members.

Having been successful in securing courses and facilities, the next step was to engage the staff on-site, members and non-members alike.  A learning survey was put together to allow information to be gathered on people’s learning interests, and this was formally unveiled at the official programme launch at the site on 15 July 2011.  Sonya and Stephen set up a union stall where people could come and speak to them about learning, discuss their aspirations and find out more about what opportunities were available to them.  The launch itself was incredibly well attended, with 221 people completing the survey on the day and many people joining up because of the learning on offer.  This was a huge boost to the reps who had put so much work into the event, and a positive sign of things to come.

As a learning programme and facilities had already been secured, Sonya and Stephen were able to move quickly to analyse the survey results, select the most popular courses from Stow’s curriculum, and get the courses started.  This was a powerful demonstration of how Unite can quickly respond to its members’ needs, and how union-led learning is truly driven by the needs of the learners themselves.  The buzz created on-site was remarkable; the increased level of union activity resulted in a visible increase in the confidence of staff members in their ability to raise industrial issues and change things for the better in their workplace.  Not only this, but the increase in member density at this site surpassed expectations, rising from just 6% in November 2010 to 25% today.  This is hugely important as the Greenock site is a 100% Campaign target, and the success the reps have had through combining learning and organising is clear evidence this strategy work and could be a key path to increasing Unite’s membership in all sectors.

BSL learners receive their certificates at RBS Greenock

The first course run was Understanding Pensions which began in September 2011, and since then learners have completed Computing level 1, Communications and British Sign Language introductory and level 1 courses.  The momentum of the programme has continued, with courses currently running in Spanish and British Sign Language level 2, and a further Understanding Pensions intake, with learners due to complete these in June and August.  So far, 33 learners have completed the courses and there are a further 30 learners on the courses currently running.  The enthusiasm for the courses is evident in all those who attend, and alongside the excellent learning experiences which learners are having they are all achieving qualifications as all courses are accredited.

Sonya and Stephen are delighted with the benefits they are bringing to their colleagues, and the new members they are bringing into Unite.  At the beginning of 2012 they also recruited a new Workplace Rep, Yvonne Milloy, and the activity on site has benefited further from her positive attitude and enthusiasm in raising the profile of Unite and the lifelong learning agenda.  The team are already focused on the road ahead and plan to organise several new courses such as  Accounts, Computing, Spanish levels 1 & 2, Italian and an Employment Rights courses to run in the remainder of 2012.  Sonya told me how the programme is branching out:

“I now have a contact in one of our local branches in Greenock, so I see an opportunity for the learning programme to reach out beyond the Greenock Mortgage Centre. I believe that if we include the branches not only will it help with the numbers on the courses but it will also increase the attention and interest in Unite . We work closely with the branches here at the Greenock Mortgage Centre and a lot of our staff have family and friends working in different areas of the Bank.”

The ongoing activity around the learning programme continues to attract new members, with several new applications coming in on a weekly basis, and the positive interest generated among the staff will no doubt result in the density increasing even further.  The learning project in RBS shows us what an inclusive, supportive and active union Unite is, and is a wonderful example of how reps can make a real difference to their members, and to the membership of the union as a whole.








MAHLE Engine Systems 1st Year of Learning Programme Successes

21 May

Pat Rafferty, Scottish Regional Secretary for Unite the Union signed a learning agreement between Unite – Scotland’s largest union & MAHLE Engine Systems on the 23rd May 2011 at the MAHLE Kilmarnock plant.

The agreement facilitated the training of 5 Unite Workplace Reps as Union Learning Reps (ULRs), the allocation of a Learning Centre for union lead learning, an office for a the lead ULR, the secondment of the lead ULR for 1 day a week to deal with learning and the set up of a joint union and management steering group to oversee the learning and training programme on site that meets on a fortnightly basis supported by a Unite Regional Learning Organiser.

The ULRs surveyed the learning and training needs of the workforce of the Kilmarnock plant. The Survey produced a total of 537 learning and training requests. This huge amount of learning requests demonstrates the progressive appetite for up-skilling on site from the Unite membership.

The aspiration of the workforce at MAHLE to build on their skills, knowledge and experience empirically demonstrates the desire of the membership at MAHLE engine systems to continue in up-skilling to be a viable skilled workforce for the German based employer.

Since the signing of the learning agreement in May 2011 Unite Union Learning Reps have delivered the following courses on site; Using Computers Stage 1, Literacy Support, Spanish, German, City & Guilds 17th Editions Wiring Regs, Understanding Pensions & Open University sessions. These courses have amounted to over 1,000 hours of learning being done on site since the signing of the learning agreement. All this in less than a year and most learning being delivered in members own time again displays the craving the workforce has for Lifelong Learning and up-skilling.

Please enjoy the short video we have compiled of comments from all involved in the learning programme this year. Special mention must also go to Claire McAvoy lead ULR for the MAHLE Kilmarnock site for her tireless dedication in bring opportunities to fellow workers at MAHLE