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‘Train more union learning reps’ says Denham, as TUC’s unionlearn reaches target of 22,000

John Denham, MP, Secretary of State for DIUS called for more union learning reps (ULRs) to be trained, as he congratulated unionlearn, the TUC and unions on reaching an agreed target of 22,000 trained and accredited ULRs, today (Wednesday 22 April) at a reception in Westminster. Described by John Denham as ‘your best friend in the workplace’, ULRs promote the learning message and work with employers, through their unions, to help colleagues to access courses, such as IT, English, Maths, or Continuing Professional Development.

The 22,000 ULRs were represented by Joanna Szmit, a Polish bus driver at Metroline, London. Joanna came over from Poland five years ago and recently became a ULR at her garage in Perivale, but today she will receive an award from the Secretary of State. Joanna, a ULR from Unite the Union, is a single mother but also finds time to support colleagues at her bus garage in furthering their learning ambitions and increasing their skills. She is also a vital link to fellow Poles at Metroline and feels she has a real role in helping to create and maintain social cohesion. The young Polish woman is typical of the new cohort of younger people, women and ethnic minorities who are volunteering to become union learning reps. Metroline has firmly embraced learning in the workplace with its Learning on the Move project, which includes a fully-equipped learning centre in a double decker bus and several other learning centres at bus garages throughout London.

Rt Hon John Denham MP, Secretary of State DIUS said: "My warmest congratulations to the unions on successfully carrying through this training programme. With their real-life experience and credibility union learning reps are your best friends in the workplace – colleagues who can advise, support and even coerce you into doing the right thing. This is a fantastic return on the Government’s investment in union learning. Keep up the good work and train many more."

Frances O’Grady, TUC Deputy General Secretary said: "I am extremely proud of all the union learning reps who have given their time, effort and enthusiasm to help others to engage with learning. Joanna is a fine representative of how ULRs can help people in the workplace to learn, progress and change their lives. This is a great example of what the trade union movement can do to fight social inequality, through empowering workers to aspire to the best."

Joanna Szmit, Unite ULR, Metroline said: "I’m very happy and very proud to represent the 22,000 trained ULRs. When I came here from Poland I couldn’t believe I’d be doing this. But with the support of my union and fellow ULRs, I have, like many others, gained new and valuable skills."

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