Unions call for education reps at work
The idea is among a number of measures - including setting up learning centres in union offices - put forward by a Trades Union Congress task group on learning.
Dr John Lloyd, education and training director of the Amalgamated Engineering and Electrical Union, told seminar delegates: "The TUC has set up a learning task group which reports to congress in September.
"They have decided to make lifelong learning and the University for Industry a cause cel bre for this year's congress.
"They will be proposing the establishment of union learning representatives so that throughout industry and commerce there will be people supported by union learning representatives."
He said that the aim was "to ensure that our learning representatives get the fullest support to enable them to bring to our members' attention the existence of UFI as it is rolled out around the nation".
Liz Smith, secretary of the training and enterprise task group, said the unions were keen to build on their traditional role of fostering learning through organisations such as the Workers' Educational Association and through apprenticeships.
Giving learning a place in the union bargaining process was at the heart of the proposals, she said.
"We do think the UFI offers particular opportunities for us to get union representatives into a position where they can be negotiating for University for Industry access and supporting members to take the benefits of UFI access." But she added that there was a need for a statutory framework on the rights of union learning reps to help them perform that role.
"If there was a statutory framework it might be better to compare it to the sort of structures you have for health and safety.
"But there is no statutory backing for the role so people's ability to do it, and get time off to be trained for it, are going to be comparatively inhibited. "