Why organise through learning?

When we talk about ‘organising’ in a trade union context, we’re talking about bringing people together around a shared concern to make positive changes and build the union’s power.

Learning can be a great way to do that. Here’s why:

  • It’s an obvious benefit that attracts people to join the union
  • It can be a shared experience that builds networks in the workplace
  • It gets people feeling more confident, more willing to speak up…
  • … and more curious, more willing to question the way things are

Why learning is important to UNISON’s organising agenda

UNISON members are often held back at work and in society by a lack of training and confidence. And women, part-time workers and people in low paid manual jobs are far less likely to be involved in any learning programmes offered by their employer.

Our learning offer provides members with personal development and learning opportunities they might not otherwise access. But lifelong learning is also linked with other key UNISON priorities and goals.

These include:

Work / life balance

Time off for learning is a key ingredient in improving the quality of our members’ lives, both in and out of work.

Equality and social justice

Many of our members have been let down by an education system that didn’t meet their needs. This is often made worse by lack of opportunity for learning at work.

Citizenship and community

UNISON’s member learning opportunities aim to help workers develop skills and confidence to play a full part in democracy and get their voice heard.

Building the union

Member learning opportunities have motivated new activists and changed the way many members view UNISON and their relationship with their union.

Improved industrial relations

By working with employers around lifelong learning, we can improve and strengthen our relationships and extend the scope of our bargaining agenda.

Learning reps

UNISON’s approach to member learning relies on a network of trained and active learning reps, whose employers give them the recognition and time needed to fulfil their role. It is through our UNISON learning reps and activists that we can ensure as many of our members as possible have opportunities for learning that provide them with the skills and confidence to progress and participate fully at work, in society and in the union.

Making the case for learning

Making the case to the employer

Skills development offers a positive reason for employers to engage with unions as this should be a shared agenda. 

Benefits to the employer include:

  • A more valued, motivated and productive workforce
  • Improved staff retention and reduced absenteeism
  • Improved reputation as an organisation and employer

Making the case to the branch

  • Learning can help raise UNISON’s profile in the workplace
  • Learning provides a positive offer to members – attracting new people into activism, increasing diversity, and helping to meet recruitment and organising objectives
  • UNISON’s learning offer can help develop members’ skills and confidence, which in turn can help strengthen the branch 

Making the case to members

  • An opportunity for personal and skills development 
  • A way to get together and work with colleagues in a different setting 
  • Greater job satisfaction or a potential route to new opportunities