Mick Whitley, the MP for Birkenhead, and Maria Exall the President of the Trade Union Congress (TUC), spoke at a TUC event at the Wirral Met Twelve Quays Campus yesterday, 18 May 2023.
The event was to discuss the importance of workplace learning and the role of Trade Union Learning in improving people’s skills, knowledge, and daily lives.
Mick and Maria unveiled a plaque commemorating the co-operation between the Trade Unions and the College over the last thirty years in promoting union learning.
Before the unveiling Mick told the meeting, “I want to thank Sue Higginson for inviting me to unveil this plaque today. And I want to thank the TUC and Jay for organising today’s excellent event. The value of workplace learning is evident in the substantial number of union members who have secured new skills, promotion in their jobs and the qualifications to advance their careers through the various trade union education programmes.
“This plaque is a celebration of Wirral Met’s long association with the trade union movement and of Sue’s own commitment to supporting Trade Union Learning. It is a tribute to the co-operation between the trade union movement and the college and their joint commitment to carrying on with this excellent work.
“The unions and the TUC have long stressed the importance of education for trade unionists. As they say, knowledge is power and the more knowledge our members and activists have the better able they are to win a fair deal for workers.
“As a former Regional Secretary of Unite the Union I always supported the work of the region in training and educating our members. And institutions like Wirral Met College have been vital pillars of support in that work.
“Thirty years ago, Wirral Met started working with Trade Union Education. It was Sue who brought it into her faculty, following work that had been done together with the unions to support staff at Littlewoods Pools whose jobs were being cut. The college, Sue and the unions hit it off straight away and started working on wider projects such as Union Learn and Bargaining for Skills. This collaboration went from strength to strength.
“Trade union education remained a vital part of the college’s work. This was despite funding being slashed by a government that was no friend of the unions. Indeed, the Tories axed the successful Union Learn Fund that was supported by numerous employers as well as the unions.
“Without debate, the government announced it would be shutting the Union Learn Fund from March 2021, saying it needed to “prioritise resources in these challenging times”. The Fund cost the government a paltry £12million a year.
“The decision was an act of anti-union spite – pure and simple. Despite all that, the College’s commitment to trade union education is still going strong and it has allocated the top floor of the new Hamilton Campus to Trade Union Education.
“The College is also looking at how it can grow and strengthen its work in supporting the TUC’s programmes through sources such as the Towns Fund.
“Sue is retiring in July. I personally will miss her dearly. Her commitment is an inspiration, and this plaque is an affirmation of her commitment to trade union education and of her pride in the work the College’s Trade Union Education Team conduct.
“I am delighted to unveil this plaque and to say how much I, as the Member of Parliament for Birkenhead, value the partnership between Wirral Met, the TUC, and the trade union movement. Long may it continue. Thank you.”
Image: (L-R) Birkenhead MP, Mick Whitley; Sue Higginson, Principal Wirral Met College; and Maria Exall the President of the TUC