The British TUC has trained 18,000 union learning reps (ULRs), who provide their colleagues with advice on learning opportunities. Kim Hoque and Nicolas Bacon of Nottingham University Business School have tried to assess whether they have an impact on employer-provided training.
The good news is that there are indications that ULRs have a positive impact on the equal distribution of training opportunities, especially with regard to older workers, workers with intermediate-level qualifications and part-time workers.
However, they also found that ULRs have a very limited impact at best on the total amount of training provided by employers.
Hoque and Bacon suggest that ULRs may tend to refer workers to public education and that employers may be free-riding: “one unintended consequence of ULRs could be that they will reduce the perception on the part of employers that training is their responsibility”. To some extent, they blame government regulations that make it too easy for employers to disregard ULRs.
Kim Hoque and Nicolas Bacon (2008), Trade Unions, Union Learning Representatives and Employer-Provided Training in Britain. British Journal of Industrial Relations, forthcoming (abstract; full text only for subscribers). See also: Learning reps and union revitalisation