Between Immediacy and Imagination: the place of the educator and organiser in union renewal

National Institute for Adult and Continuing Education (NIACE)
Publication Type:
Journal Article
Studies in the Education of Adults, 2010, 42 (1 (Spring)), pp. 34 - 46
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Can the current education programme of the Australian trade union movement contribute to reviving union growth and union culture, develop new activists and leaders, and encourage and facilitate the organisational change needed to re-orient unions to develop broader alliances? Twenty-five Australian trade union leaders were asked to describe the educational activities of their unions and to assess the education provided by the Australian Council of Trade Unions' (ACTU) national Education and Campaign Centre (ECC). Analysis of their responses reveals a number of structural, organisational and pedagogical challenges for delivering a national union education programme. It also raises questions of how education can support a union movement trying to convince new layers of workers that unionism can be a dynamic, forward-looking, social movement. The article outlines the existing course framework as a means of understanding the scope of current educational provision. Drawing on interviewee observations and Newman's concept of three contracts in union education, it considers the roles of educator and of organiser, and how an understanding of these roles is currently expressed by union leaders. We conclude with some questions about ways that the union movement might consider the relationship between education and union renewal.
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