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Voices of Scotland The fight to save Glasgow Trade Union Education Centre needs the support of the entire movement

The city of Jimmy Reid, Mary McArthur and other great class fighters must not be left without trade union learning provision, says NEIL FINDLAY

LAST MONTH’s figures showing Scotland’s trade union membership is up by 30,000 should be a cause of celebration after years of gloomy headlines about declining union membership. 

Let’s hope that this trend continues as workers understand the importance of collective organising to improve pay and conditions and defend jobs and services. 

Rising numbers of trade unionists should result in a growing demand for trade union education, shop steward and rep training. However, in Glasgow, a city with a long and proud history of trade union activism, the City of Glasgow College, instead of grasping this opportunity to attract new business to the college, want to close down the Trade Union Education Centre which has been in existence since the early 1990s. A centre that has trained thousands of union members and workplace reps. 

The closure proposal comes against a backdrop of deteriorating industrial relations at the college where the principal who takes home almost £240,000 from the public purse every year is increasingly hostile to trade unions. 

A series of strikes by lecturers’ union the EIS over compulsory redundancies and pay has caused significant disruption to courses and affected the centre’s ability to deliver courses. 

As you would expect, trade union education tutors have shown 100 per cent support for industrial action. Meanwhile a recently appointed curriculum head with no trade union experience crossed the college picket line during the same dispute.

The move to close the centre is seen as a further attack on trade unionism by a hostile senior management who have systematically run down the centre by failing to appoint staff into key positions when vacancies have arisen, leaving the department leaderless and without the support needed to build relationships, attract new students and bring income to the college. 

If this proposal proceeds Scotland will have no in-person trade union learning. That would be disastrous for the labour movement. 

On his election as first minister, John Swinney said: “A partnership with trade unions and business will be at the core of my approach.” The closure proposal by Glasgow College runs completely contrary to this statement and the Scottish government’s stated commitment to “Fair Work.”

Now is the opportunity for Swinney to turn his words into action by intervening to prevent the loss of this vital educational resource. 

It is inconceivable that the city of Jimmy Reid, Mary McArthur, John McLean and Willie Gallacher could be left with no trade union education provision. 

This is not just a matter for Glasgow College unions, it is not just a matter for Scottish trade unions, it is an issue that requires a response from the whole British trade union movement. 

You can help in this campaign by emailing your opposition to the closure to the principal and chief executive of Glasgow College, Paul Little [email protected] and Scotland’s First Minister [email protected].

Please do what you do best and help us save Glasgow Trade Union Education Centre.

Neil Findlay is a former Labour MSP and director of Unity Consulting Scotland.

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