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Union Learning: shifting up a gear

6 November 2012

TSSA Union Learning Reps from across the UK and Ireland recently came together for an annual seminar that was described as ‘positive’ and ‘inspiring’.

ULR groups

This year’s theme was ‘Changing lives, changing workplaces’ and it was clear from many of the contributions that TSSA ULRs are working towards doing just that.

The event opened with a welcome from TSSA’s treasurer Mick Carney, who praised the positive work that ULRs do and the importance of learning as an organising tool.

Interactive workshops utilising videos, case-studies and a ‘Learning Tree’ helped prompt discussion on the key issues and obstacles for the work ULRs are involved in.

While the seminar heard inspiring reports of work that ULRs are involved in, the emphasis of the event was very much on work that will be done in the future. ‘I found the seminar really empowering’, said Translink Ulsterbus Inspector and ULR Greg McKernan. ‘It was highly educational and I got a real sense of community out of it. I love coming over and touching base with everyone at events like this. I certainly went home with a renewed vigour to tackle issues in the workplace’.

One of the highlights of the event were the ‘speed stalls’ that gave ULRs mini-taster sessions across a range of issues. From social networking to apprenticeships, online IT resources to the Better Rail campaign, each speed-stall was informative and empowering. Many ULRs pledged to take the information they had been given back to use in their workplace.

Mo Begum, one of the lead ULRs that helped facilitate the event said: ‘This was the first time I had presented at a national event and I was nervous. But the more I participated, the more confident I became. From the event I have learnt new methods of promoting learning and hope to go back and set up a Learning Centre in my workplace.’

ULR tree

Company-based planning sessions were seen as a useful way to plan and identify key issues for ULRs and the union more generally. It quickly became clear that the most effective way to organise in the workplace was by working closely with industrial reps, health and safety reps and other activists to address common concerns.

The seminar also heard from the union’s equality and diversity organiser who spoke about TSSA’s work on neurodiversity – an area that affects many members and their families and one that ULRs committed to do work on locally.

The event saw many ULRs sign up to Learn to Grow, a new TSSA Learning initiative that will show how gardening can be used as a learning tool. Through the distribution of seeds and educational material members will be encouraged and supported to grow vegetables in their workplaces.

A wider perspective to union learning was provided by after-dinner speaker and former West Bromwich Albion footballer Paul Raven. Paul now works as Union Learning Project worker for the PFA and gave an inspiring talk about the work their union does to support footballers in learning projects at every level of the game. The event ended with a rousing address from Manuel Cortes who pledged support for the work of ULRs and made clear its priority within the union’s campaigns to improve the lives of our members and their families.

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