News Archive

Scotland – Professional Trade Union Voice needed

Posted on Tuesday, October 30, 2001

Workers’ Organisation the key.
Another time of significant change for community learning in Scotland has compelled the need to get all staff organised. The last rounds of cuts and local government reorganisation did not leave the fabric of the service in a good state. While the new Parliament has made greater demands on local authorities to produce community learning plans and to contribute to the social inclusion and lifelong learning agendas, the fragmentation caused by the preceding changes has hindered long term growth and importantly the construction of clear professional identity and voice.

CYWU a role to play.
CYWU has contributed to the debate in Scotland not just by recruiting more members over the recent period and lobbying government and local government, but by producing a discussion paper on the crucial differences between general trade unions, professional associations and specialist trade unions.

Exploitation of highly trained staff.
We have also argued that the lack of a specific JNC qualification and pay and conditions link in Scotland continues to condemn staff to a lower professional status despite in fact having a higher level of qualification than most of their counterparts in Europe. In Scotland it is a four year degree leading to professional qualification and more attention is given to the learning theories that underpin the different interventions of youth, community and adult education. The situation facing part time workers in Scotland has also not been good and the lack of a JNC type framework and consistently developed in service training has been a problem.

Integration and specialism.
The integration of adult education, community work and youth work at training and service delivery levels in Scotland since the Alexander report of 1975 has led to some of the most pioneering practice in Europe. Community Learning Scotland has been a powerful political advocate of this approach. In essence this integrated model has been one that CYWU has always supported and advocated and at a time of the new Neighbourhood Renewal policies of New Labour throughout the UK it is more needed that ever. However, a harsh professional reality faces us. No matter how lucid and logical the coherence of informal education theory and the organisation of local authority services, the interventions of fieldwork staff and the needs of different client groups demand professional specialisation. This is particularly marked at this time in Youth Work and the needs of young people.

Sufficient funding needed.
Specialism in terms of training and service delivery and therefore professional back up are essential. There is perhaps no need to create anything new to promote these related occupational specialisms in terms of a national support structure, but there is need to fund both local authorities, the voluntary sector and Community Learning Scotland more adequately to provide support. Where too will play work be in the unfolding agenda ? Where will statutory provision be ?

Respected professional voice – specialist trade union in Scotland.
CYWU members in Scotland are urging all colleagues to reflect on the old professional and trade union adage that unity is strength. If a specialist community learning voice were created for all staff from volunteer to Chief Executive of national agencies the service would step forward and gain greater credence from the Parliament and Convention of Scottish Local Authorities. With the developed commitments to grass roots democracy in Scotland, this would also provide an active mechanism for creating an influential voice from the field for the field in partnership with the employers who want to make a difference. If the workers closest to Scotland’s most needy urban and rural communities could unite and create a strong identity, the Parliament would flourish in new an unexpected ways. The benefits of such a voice working in partnership with the Wales Assembly and Westminster are all too obvious.

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