Memorandum from UNIFI
1. UNIFI is a TUC affiliated trade union
representing some 175,000 workers across the finance sector. The
Union represents staff in all grades and all occupations, not
only in the major English and Scottish banks, but also in insurance
companies, building societies, the Bank of England, finance houses
and business services companies.
2. UNIFI was formed in May 1999 from the
merger of the Banking, Insurance and Finance Union (BIFU), the
NatWest Staff Association and UnFI (the Barclays Staff Union).
3. The union welcomes the opportunity to
make a contribution to the consultation on recruiting people who
have been unemployed for long periods and for skills development
for existing workers who have limited career opportunities. We
will also aim to conform with the request that submissions should
4. As the consultation document indicates
the evidence is that employers prefer to take on staff who are
already employed. With many employers, this may, in a more or
less conscious way, be part of the selection process with assumptions
being made on the employability of an unemployed person. A cycle
of not being able to get employment without experience and not
being able to get the experience because no employer will take
the individual on is set up.
5. As we witnessed during the years of a
Conservative Government, with some noble exceptions, generally
employers on their own do not take up their role as a responsible
actor in society without encouragement from government and from
unions. Part of the role that they should be taking is a responsibility
to those who have been out of employment for a period of six months
6. Although creating a positive environment
for long term, unemployed people to be considered in is a positive
step, experience teaches us that employers also require incentives
to fulfil these obligations. These incentives can come in the
form of legal obligations to consider long term unemployed people
for vacancies or providing subsidies to employers who take on
workers from this category. A good example of the latter type
of encouragement is the New Deal which is already available, and
this in the first instance could provide a good model to springboard
on from to develop more imaginative ways to bring people into
7. The consultation document asks for means
of both bringing people into the job market and for methods of
equipping people with skills for developing either with their
current employer or to move on. The Danish have pursued a model
which meets both these aims in the same process. One person takes
study leave for six months, another person can then "act
up" giving them the opportunity to develop skills and experience
in a more senior role. This then leaves a vacancy which is filled
by an unemployed person. The advantage of this system is that
three people have the benefit of a learning experience.
8. This idea could be adapted and developed
in other ways. Where employees are already entitled to study leave
for a day, a group of five workers could be amalgamated to create
a new full time vacancy which could then be filled by an unemployed
person. Again this provides the advantages of enabling both study
and work experience. This could be managed and funded in the same
way that the New Deal or Training for Work is already operating.
9. The advantage of this method is that
it is more likely that employees on day release will be eligible
for paid leave and consequently more likely to take up the training
opportunities than people who would have to take six months unpaid
10. Although, any additional work experience
is to be welcomed there is a danger that employers would use this
period as a short term employment arrangement. As a consequence
regulations should be issued which give these workers a preferential
opportunity for any permanent vacancies which arise.
11. Whilst we would welcome the Government
facilitating employers funding six months study leave for employees,
we recognise that this is not a likely outcome of this consultation.
However, the Government has a crucial role in creating a framework
which encourages both learning and employment for those who have
been out of work for a period of six months or more. The New Deal
and Training for Work schemes have already proved how the Government
can successfully take on this role.
12. UNIFI's primary concern is the finance
sector. In this sector there has already been innovation with
the introduction of the Modern Apprenticeship in Providing Financial
Services provided by the Banks and Building Societies National
Training Organisation. This is aimed at those entering financial
services for the first time at an age group of 16 to 24 year olds,
however, it focuses on 17 to 19 year old college and school leavers.
13. In the 11 inner city areas that are
to be targeted recruitment for this apprenticeship could focus
on the long term unemployed. This programme has the advantage
not only of providing work but also of offering a structured training
programme, If there is concern over the displacement of other
people then a pilot could be run. This pilot would measure the
impact on both the long term unemployed and on employment opportunities
for school and college leavers in the area.
14. Many companies in the finance sector,
particularly in call centres use employment agencies as a means
of recruitment. The staff can be employed through the agency for
periods of six months or more before the company decides whether
or not to employ them directly. This process has the advantage
of improving the chances of long term unemployed people being
considered for employment. The result of this distanced employment
relationship is that the employer is less likely to invest in
a structured training programme for the individuals.
15. In some finance companies agency staff
have been employed alongside permanent members of staff for many
years. A maximum period of employment through an agency for the
same employer should be considered in line with the Governments
proposals on Employment Agencies Regulation, particularly on temp
to perm fees, a "free transfer" should be obligatory
after one year. There should be an obligation on the employer
to take an agency worker on permanently at this point as well.
16. UNIFI has established a Lifelong Learning
"Building Partnerships" programme entitled the "Changing
Experience of Work". This course develops practical IT skills
and an understanding of the implications of technology in the
workplace and on completing the course the employees are provided
with 30 credits for level four accreditation.
17. UNIFI recognises that call centre workers
in the finance sector do not have the same long term career prospects
as their colleagues in the more traditional parts of the finance
sector. With this in mind one of the employers that UNIFI has
involved in this project is First Direct and feedback from the
participants is that the course has opened up their horizons.
18. Similarly in the Coventry Building Society
(CBS) UNIFI has run an internal development project which has
demonstrated the effectiveness of mentoring schemes. As a result
of this training process CBS has developed a new group of computer
programme. This has proved an exciting initiative in that it updates
and improves the skill levels of employees to meet the changed
19. Both of these projects have been achieved
through the Union Learning Fund. They provide structured learning
possibilities for a large group of employees including those who
have entered work from a period of unemployment. The effect has
been not only to increase skill level but also to increase the
transferability of the employees skills.
20. As already stated, this may have had
a positive impact on workers who recently entered the job market,
this has not previously been part of the aims of the programmes.
Establishing a fund that is based on the same principles as the
Union Learning Fund but is focused specifically on this group
of workers would be a welcome step in ensuring a thorough flexible
training programme is available.