Tories threaten Learning Fund
Trade unions have unanimously condemned Tory leader Michael Howard over his recent threat to abolish the Union Learning Fund (ULF) if the Conservatives win the next general election.
The ULF promotes trade union activity that supports the government's objective of creating "a learning society". It aims to strengthen the role and importance of learning within the workplace and, in doing so, to drive up the demand for skills.
The ULF, which has enabled thousands of workers to improve their education and skills, is one of a number of bodies that would suffer if Howard fulfilled his threat to scrap scores of quangos and government organisations that have been set up since Labour was elected in 1997.
In the last year alone, the TUC estimates, the ULF has trained more than 60,000 workers who had no or few qualifications - most of whom were "let down" at school due to the education policies of the last Conservative administration.
TUC general secretary Brendan Barber said: "Tory plans to cull the Union Learning Fund would deny a generation of British workers access to education and a chance to improve their lives.
Union learning was going "from strength to strength", he added, and changing the lives of thousands. "By improving their skills, these workers are able to seek promotion and are prepared for the high-skill demands of the modern economy, especially in sectors such as manufacturing."