Issue date
• UK Government plans to stop funding Union Learning Fund despite evidence that demand for union workplace learning is up and union led learning is needed more than ever in the current Covid crisis
• Welsh Government has confirmed their ongoing support for union learning in Wales

The UK Government has announced proposals to scrap the Union Learning Fund (ULF) in England from March 2021. The TUC has today launched a campaign to save the fund under the #SaveUnionLearn banner. Meanwhile Ken Skates, Minister for the economy, transport and North Wales has confirmed that Welsh Government continues to support the Wales Union Learning Fund (WULF).

Union learning across the UK is unique – it works with both individuals and employers to provide workplace learning and opportunities to learn new skills. Last year WULF supported over 7000 working people into learning, and since April this year the learner numbers have risen sharply. The increase is largely due to how workers have been affected by the Covid crisis. Wales TUC has noted an increase in engagement from furloughed workers, those experiencing or under threat of redundancy and key workers seeking learning support to help their mental health and wellbeing.

Shavanah Taj, Wales TUC General Secretary, said: “Union learn projects focus on engaging hard to reach and vulnerable workers and supporting them back into learning. They also play a huge role in assisting with an economic recovery, as they have done in many previous recessions and economic downturns. Therefore this decision in England is not only worrying for working people, it is counter-productive to UK plans to ‘build back better’. Whilst the UK Government’s proposal does not directly affect union learners in Wales, Wales TUC very much supports our colleagues in England and hope that the UK Government will think again. WULF has a proud 21-year history in Wales and the increase in WULF learners in Wales since the beginning of this pandemic proves that, now more than ever, we need programmes that support retraining. It shows a clear desire from working people to take control of their own career development.”

Ken Skates, the Minister for the economy, transport and North Wales reconfirmed Welsh Government support for the Wales Union Learning Fund (WULF) this week. In relation to the disappointing news about the UK Government’s plans to scrap the Union Learning Fund (ULF) in England from March 2021, he was quick to point out that this is “NOT the case in Wales”.

In a written statement at the end of April this year the minister said, “The Wales Union Learning Fund (WULF), with support from Wales TUC, has been identified by Welsh Government as a vehicle for trade unions to deliver immediate skills solutions and support to workers during the Coronavirus (Covid 19) crisis.” The Welsh Government further showed their appreciation of what WULF can achieve for workers in Wales in July when the minister announced an extension to WULF as part of the Welsh Government’s commitment to support workers during the Covid-19 crisis.