Department for Business, Innovation and Skills
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Young announces union modernisation fund awards

Trade unions’ efforts to support vulnerable workers were given a boost today as Lord Young announced Government funding for fourteen new projects at the TUC Annual Congress.

A total of £2.46 million will be made available to help unions improve their ability to meet the needs of hard-to-reach groups of vulnerable workers. It will be matched with at least an equivalent union contribution.

The money will be distributed under Round Three of the Union Modernisation Fund which provides financial assistance to trade unions and their federations for innovative projects with the potential to transform their effectiveness. Bids are assessed by an independent Supervisory Board comprising individuals from union, academic and industry backgrounds.

Speaking at the TUC Annual Congress, Minister for Employment Relations, Lord Young said:

”The latest round of the UMF focuses on protecting some of the most vulnerable people in the working population. Unions have demonstrated genuine enthusiasm for helping vulnerable workers and working with community and voluntary organisations.

“The overall quality of the applications was very high but the bids selected for funding are those which are the most forward-looking and offer the most transformational potential.

“I’ll be following all the projects with interest as they go on to develop new services and design innovative mechanisms for accessing hard-to-reach groups of vulnerable workers”.

A total of 23 applications were received with successful bids including projects from the TUC, GMB, Unison and a range of other unions. The full list is below in Notes to Editors.

Notes to editors


1.                  There have been two rounds of UMF so far.  The third round was launched in February 2009 with a new focus on proposals to develop support and advice mechanisms for vulnerable workers. Bidding closed on 5 June 2009.

2.             List of Successful Bids (in alphabetical order):

BECTU - Challenging the creative labour market: moving young workers to centre stage

The project seeks to use web-based tools developed in UMF2 to expand their student register pilot and extend it to create a ‘vulnerable new entrants register’. This would: provide information, advice and guidance to vulnerable workers; support an online community and support the community to actively influence employment practices.

BECTU – Co-operative agencies for entertainment industry freelancers

The project seeks to address the vulnerability of freelancers in the entertainment industry, many of whom have to use work-finding agencies that charge up-front fees and often treat freelancers unfairly by failing to find them work. The project would research and pilot a co-operative agency that charges commission on earnings rather than up-front fees and gives freelancers democratic control over the enterprise.

BFAWU – Reaching out to vulnerable workers in retail bakery

The project seeks to explore the needs of an under-represented industry sector - retail bakery shop workers - that experiences vulnerability due to isolated sites, isolating shift patterns, and variable levels of employer compliance with employment law. The project would research, develop, and deliver a new model of employee engagement that would provide access to new channels of communication, capacity building training and empowerment to secure employment rights.

Community – Beyond the workplace: Community in the community

The project seeks to build on Community’s modernisation strategy which is based upon engaging with members where they live as well as where they work; and forging links with other progressive organisations to address issues of mutual concern. The project would advance this approach by developing relationships and joint activities with third sector organisations in South Yorkshire and the East Midlands, based on research and consultation.  Community officials would be trained in working with the third sector, and a toolkit produced to promote effective collaborations between trade unions and third sector organisations.

GFTU – What to Expect When You Start Work:  Supporting the Employment Advice Needs of Vulnerable Workers

The project seeks to generate new services for affiliates with the provision of an employment rights service for vulnerable workers. This would be delivered via; ‘employment rights’ fairs, to showcase good practice in employment; the development of information materials; and the provision of training sessions for vulnerable workers, trainers and equality reps.

GMB – Engaging communities and building social capital

The project seeks to reach out beyond the union’s usual boundaries into vulnerable communities, breaking down barriers to employment rights knowledge, developing relationships with community leaders and providing training to build capacity and leadership amongst vulnerable workers.

GMB – Equality and vulnerability representatives in the workplace

The project seeks to train 45 ‘early adopters’ from their existing equality officers in Birmingham and the West Midlands to become ‘equality and vulnerability representatives’ with an explicit additional remit to advance the cause of vulnerable workers. The aim is to create a network of powerful advocates for vulnerable workers and provide a strong workplace lead on equalities issues, collaborating with employers, employees and the wider community to tackle vulnerability and inequality in our workplaces.

NUJ – New networks: giving journalism’s vulnerable workers the support they need

The project seeks to provide support to newly qualified, freelance and casual journalists who face exploitation at work and are isolated from normal support structures within the industry. This would be done via new IT systems, a new mentoring network and a training package.

RMT- New website and Training for Vulnerable Workers

The project seeks to develop an initiative specifically aimed at vulnerable workers in the transport industries (e.g. cleaners and ancillary staff). This would be achieved via an initial survey of their needs, the development of an RMT website dedicated to vulnerable workers, and an extensive training project for officials, key members of staff and Branch Secretaries.

Transport Salaried Staffs’ Association – Tackling dyslexia discrimination in the workplace

The project seeks to develop the professional competence of union organisers and representatives to meet the specific needs of vulnerable workers facing discrimination because of hidden disabilities such as dyslexia. This would be delivered via work with Dyslexia Action to develop information materials, training and engagement with employers. 

TUC – Supporting unions to tackle vulnerable employment

The project seeks to build on the recommendations of the CoVE report and fulfil the TUC strategic goal to tackle vulnerable employment. TUC aim to: provide tailored support to unions seeking to improve engagement with vulnerable workers via training and better information sharing; develop new skills in promoting and protecting the rights of vulnerable workers and integrating their needs into negotiations with employers; develop new resources for unions (specifically regarding informal, agency, younger and casual workers); encourage closer working between unions and enforcement agencies; and pilot new ways of supporting unions in the regions. 

UCATT - Building a stronger union – protecting vulnerable workers: responding to the downturn - preparing for the upturn

The project seeks to develop practical responses to the range of vulnerabilities faced by workers across the construction sector. A ‘Vulnerable Workers-Membership Unit’ will develop UCATT’s internal capacity to provide representation and support to workers whilst a partnership network will be developed with third sector, external and enforcement agencies to enhance UCATT’s capability to provide a package of information, advice, guidance and training services.

UNISON – Outsourced Workers Project

The project seeks to address the needs of the growing numbers of public service workers who have been outsourced and could be vulnerable to exploitation by unscrupulous employers. The project would reduce marginalisation and increase capacity amongst outsourced workers, by improving understanding of the issues they face and showing how they can be helped through awareness raising, training and the production of supporting materials.

USDAW – Engaging Vulnerable Workers

The project seeks to extend the reach of the union (and their modernising agenda) to hitherto hard-to-reach groups who are more vulnerable at work generally and at greater risk of falling outside trade union protection. It will develop capacity to identify and connect with vulnerable workers through a variety of means, including new ways of developing the knowledge and skills of reps and officials, and more innovative, IT-based, ways of engaging with target groups.

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