One minister called the union learning reps (ULRs) the ‘most successful movement for change’. Critics, on the other hand, say that the government has changed unions into ‘lubricants facilitating flexibility and productivity’.
The British union federation TUC has trained 18,000 ULRs who provide their colleagues with advice on learning opportunities. The goal is to have 22,000 ULRs and help 250,000 workers gain access to learning in 2010. The programme is partly funded by the government.
ULRs are not only seen as a way to help workers improve their labour market qualifications; they are also seen as a way to strengthen union presence at the workplace and to reach out to workers who may not feel very comfortable with the ‘traditional’ union image. Case studies suggest that ULRs are successful at reaching minorities, women, part-time and agency workers and workers at the lower end of the labour market.