The state and the union learning agenda in Britain

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle



The emergence of the union learning agenda under the New Labour variant of neo-liberalism has produced a debate on the appropriateness of union involvement in this arena of activity. The incorporation thesis argues that unions merely implement policy over which they have had little influence. The critical engagement thesis suggests that there may be union gains, but these are emergent. The article reviews key debates and considers the key outcomes of the union learning representative initiative. It argues that models of union learning are shaped by union character, structure and organizational priorities and afford space for unions to develop their representative and regulatory capacity. New forms of activism, formal and informal representative roles offer avenues for exploring the changing nature of industrial relations and workplace representation.


Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)202-217
Number of pages16
JournalWork, Employment & Society
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jun 2011


  • trade unions, representation, union incorporation and critical engagement, union learning representatives