Unions to get £10m to e-modernise

The government has earmarked the funds to help with 'adaptation to changing labour market trends and to new ways of working'

The Department of Trade and Industry is offering up to £10m to help unions take advantage of the Internet and make use of new technologies.

The government department is inviting bids for funding as part of a wider scheme to support projects that help unions adapt to new ways of working.

Gerry Sutcliffe MP, parliamentary under-secretary of state for Employment Relations, said: "I envisage that the size of the fund would be in the region of £5m to £10m in total, with expenditure spread over several years, probably beginning in 2005 or 2006. The case for establishing a fund is compelling. Unions — just like businesses — need targeted support to speed their adaptation to changing labour market trends and to new ways of working.

"Unions have done much to modernise themselves and several, often supported by the [Trade Union Council], have made significant progress in that direction. However, as a number of representations from unions have confirmed, without assistance the pace of change will be slow."

The scheme is aimed at training union representatives in "broadening dialogue" and making better use of the Internet. Members will also be taught about management, and how to build user-friendly voting systems that under-represented people can access.

Sutcliffe introduced the Union Modernisation Fund in Parliament last year.