The coalition government is repeating its commitment to the legislation protecting time off for trade union training for stewards and lay union officials. But on the other hand such are the new rules that stewards will only be entitled to one training course of no more than five days a year, unless they are doing a diploma level qualification, which attracts ten days. A diploma, the mind boggles!
At the same time the government is attacking facility time off, so even if you can go to be trained, the employer will not have to release you. The unions are having to re-think how training is delivered: it will be in-house, it will be distance learning, it will be in the workplace.
At the same time the government is changing the funding arrangements for that time off, and changing the substance of what that training can encompass. The 40 per cent cut in further education college funding also threatens the economic viability of trade union education courses. Then with great hypocrisy the government says, yes, we want trade union training and education because all previous government, business, and TUC surveys show that a trained steward saves employers money, in fact saves hundreds of millions of pounds to the economy.
The attitude that trade unions should survive on the largesse of the employer or incorporation by the government is over. We will have to stand on our own two feet and rediscover our roots as to why independence of thought gave rise to independence of action.