The battle for workplace skills and learning

The battle for workplace skills and learning

January 26, 2021

The latest UnionDues podcast focusses on  the key union and economic concern of workplace skills and how to get them. Very timely given news of a forthcoming government White Paper on skills for jobs which will give employers a direct role in designing new qualifications starting with the post-16 age band.

But…..will employers be able to respond? In her regular Thought For The Week, Professor Mel Simms spots a flaw – and a challenge – with the government’s approach.

And special guest Kevin Rowan talks about the TUC-led campaign to change the government’s mind about cutting funding to the Union Learning Fund.  

With Josiah Mortimer's Radical Roundup.  Companion blog here. Music by Scott Holmes. A Makes You Think production

Striking report on Unions and Covid -  it’s ok to innovate

Striking report on Unions and Covid - it’s ok to innovate

January 19, 2021

With Simon Sapper, Melanie Simms and Josiah Mortimer.

The first comprehensive survey of how union behaviour has been altered by Covid 19 is featured in the latest UnionDues podcast.  Tom Hunt of the Sheffield Political Economic Research Institute and Becky Wright from Unions21 argue that while there are many more questions than answers,  the willingness to explore and innovate is the true take-away from the pandemic.  Do you agree? 

Mel Simms’s Thought For The Week focusses on sick pay and Britain’s culture of presentee-ism.  Josiah Mortimer shares his radical round-up of stories you may have missed.

Plus shout-outs to the FBUUnison, RCN and RCM  - all fighting for public safety and a fair deal and for their front line members.

UnionDues is part of the Labour Radio Podcast Network. Music by Scott Holmes. Read the companion blog at http://bit.ly/UnionInnovationBlog


Unions at the heart of government - w/Dave Penman

Unions at the heart of government - w/Dave Penman

January 12, 2021

The new series of UnionDues kicks off with Simon in discussion with Dave Penman, General Secretary of the senior civil servants’ union, the FDA.

FDA members are at the heart of government – so when legal action is launched by the union against the Prime Minister over ignoring reports of bullying by his Home Secretary, it’s arguably a case of either feeling certain to win or having nothing to lose.

In reality it is neither, but Dave takes us through the background, and the importance of the issues at stake. What he says will shock you (or maybe not, which would be worse)

We also look at why the union is reluctantly preparing for industrial action at the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service,  the merits of the joint venture  with Unison that created Managers In Partnership (a union structure for senior health sector staff), and why blowhards for reform should “walk in the shoes” of the civil servants they’re criticising, and how being FDA General Secretary is the best job in the world.

Plus eye-catching stories from around the labour movement involving maps, priests and gas fitters, and Prof Mel Simms from the University of Glasgow  shares her “thought for the week” on the NEU safe schools campaign.

A member of the Labor Radio Podcast Network.   Companion blog here.  Access all episodes here. Produced by Makes You Think

California’s Prop 22: Could the UK be next?

California’s Prop 22: Could the UK be next?

December 15, 2020

A UnionDues special episode.  While the Biden-Harris ticket pushed Trump out of the White House, Californian voters adopted Proposition 22 which stripped away employment rights for potentially millions of workers.  The worst anti-worker legislation in over 70 years according to some.

But what is Prop 22, and how did it get passed - and could something similar happen here in the UK?

With the help of fellow podcasters from  America Workforce, WorkWeek, Union City Radio, KBOO Labor Radio, Working People and The Gig we get to the guts of this landmark issue. Companion blog here, and you can access all the shows we sample at www.laborradionetwork.org 


UnionDues series 3 will be available from January. A Makes-You-Think production

What now for NZ unions after Labour landslide - w/Melissa Ansell-Bridges

What now for NZ unions after Labour landslide - w/Melissa Ansell-Bridges

November 17, 2020

In a special UnionDues podcast, Simon chats with Melissa Ansell-Bridges, General Secretary of the New Zealand Council of trade Unions about the prospects and possibilities for workers following NZ Labour’s stunning election victory last month.  High on the agenda is delivery of sector-based Fair Pay Agreements which could revolutionise both the union movement and working conditions – but reform of laws on employment status are also a key part of the equation.  It’s all to play for!  Read the companion blog for more. A Makes-You-Think production

A journey down the Working River - w/ Brian Denny

A journey down the Working River - w/ Brian Denny

November 10, 2020

In this special episode, Simon chats with Brian Denny, curator of the Working River collection of songs and music from those who live and work on the Thames.  And what a journey it is.

Although most of the action is in London and Essex, the 21 songs take us the entire length of the river – an emotional and political roller-coaster with tales of  poetry and literature,  music and the arts,  industry and empire.  But also, of poverty and strife, struggles and strikes,  insurrection and inspiration, from the Nore mutiny to SS Windrush

A mixture of well-established and new tales from musicians of great skill and passion.  But the story behind the album is just as fascinating, for folk music novices and afficionados alike.

As Brian says, folk music is not only “three chords and the truth” but “a living tradition reflecting the lives of working people which are often overlooked.” 

Working River – Songs and music of the Thames is available as a CD or download from Folktree recordings.  There’s a great illustrated commentary from Brian and all proceeds go to the GFTU educational trust – a good cause indeed. 

Companion blog here.  A Makes-You-Think production.





An epic journey!  Postal workers in the twenteens, w/Terry Pullinger

An epic journey! Postal workers in the twenteens, w/Terry Pullinger

October 27, 2020

The latest UnionDues podcast takes us on an epic industrial journey through the twenteens as seen through the eyes of the Communication Workers’ Union’s 100,000 plus postal members.

Deputy General Secretary Terry Pullinger talks us through a story of privatisation, the rarity of legally binding collective agreements, hello to a destructive new CEO, two massive Yes votes for strike action, good-bye to afore-mentioned CEO, and the challenge of being key workers in a pandemic that’s like a war.

Also in this episode, an update on the campaign to save Unionlearn in England as some Conservatives lambast the CBI  over firm-level training,  gloves off over BT plans for compulsory redundancies, and USDAW’s plea to Welsh shoppers.

Companion blogpost here.  UnionDues is part of the Labor Radio Podcast Network of over 70 union-related podcasts, accessible via the LRPN portal.  You can also stream or download this and all episodes here.  Contact the show at uniondues@makes-you-think.com  or @DuesUnion.

Stream, download, share, rate, comment but above all enjoy!

A Brave New World of work w/Christina Colclough

A Brave New World of work w/Christina Colclough

October 20, 2020

Covid has dramatically changed the notion of work and workplaces. The growth of “super surveillance” was established before the pandemic hit,  but the upsurge in home and remote working has been a massive accelerant. In the latest episode of UnionDues, Simon is joined by Christina Colclough, director of the Why Not lab which looks at the future of work from the workers’ perspective: What can, should and must unions do to safeguard their members, and what’s likely to happen if they don’t.

Also updates on a new Trade Union Advisory Group, a successful outcome for NUJ members at Bullivant Media and Unite puts  Heathrow Airport management on the spot in a row on jobs and pay.

Companion blog post here. Part of the Labor Radio Podcast Network. A Makes-You-Think production.

Unions after Covid - w/Becky Wright

Unions after Covid - w/Becky Wright

October 13, 2020

In the latest UnionDues podcast episode, Simon chats with Becky Wright, Executive Director of the Unions21 “think and do” tank. What will unions look like after Covid?  What lessons will we learn?  That’s the aim of Becky’s new research project (with help from SPERI and ACTU), and we’re all invited to take part.

We also talk pivoting to deliver services and support on-line during the pandemic, why new members are an untapped organising resource, what is strategic corporate research and why you should use it, why member engagement can’t work in isolation – and nor can a digital strategy

Plus news on or from Unionlearn, the GFTU, and Labour Research. Companion blogpost here. A Makes-You-Think production.

It’s all about organising - w/Rozanne Foyer

It’s all about organising - w/Rozanne Foyer

October 6, 2020

In this episode of the UnionDues podcast we feature an in-depth conversation with Scottish TUC General Secretary Rozanne Foyer.  Roz took up office in February 2020 and is the 13th holder of the post – and first woman appointed to it.

We covered a lot of ground in our discussion – the Better Than Zero campaign to bring collective voice and action to precarious workers, how Covid has caused a fundamental rethink of what organising means in a period of social distancing and lockdown, working with the Scottish Government, and the ever-present question if Scottish independence – or not.

There’s time to for Roz to share her trade union journey, from very junior civil servant,  via chair of the STUC’s Youth Committee, co-hosting a session at the centenary STUC Congress with the legendary Mick McGahey, to the hopes for the role she now holds. As you’ll hear – the glass is definitely and defiantly half-full. Read the companion blogpost A Makes-You-Think production.



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