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Learning representation in the United Kingdom: helping unions organise or not?

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This article reports on findings from a qualitative study of union learning reps (ULRs) in the South West region of England. It focuses on their participation as learning activists in workplace organising and branch activism and in support of broader union renewal strategies. To this end, a sample of ULRs and their project workers representing unions operating within the retail, distribution engineering and manufacturing sectors were interviewed. Participants were asked to reflect on their route into the ULR role and its prioritisation, on their engagement with branch structures and local management and on their identification with branch activism beyond learning. One key finding highlights a dichotomy within this new representative system between those already experienced and those completely new to branch activism in terms of their disposition towards union organising. In the latter case, their sense of identity with the role is encased narrowly within learning, rather than towards generic union representation‐unlike their more experienced counterparts. Conclusions are drawn in ways that identify appropriate union interventions aimed at re‐orientating new activists away from servicing to organising behaviours. Finally, a case is made for further research that examines the character of this self‐imposed demarcation between branch and learning representation.

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en

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http://eprints.lse.ac.uk/31858/

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