Bradford Council FM

Working Together For A Common Goal

GMB/Bradford Council FM Learning Agreement

As a division of Bradford Council, Facilities Management employs over one and a half thousand manual workers with the vast majority entering employment without academic or vocational qualifications. GMB convenor, Toby Rackham and workplace organiser Paul Meehan, approached human resources to see how management and unions could work together to improve the skills, education and life opportunities for their members.

Toby Rackham said: “As a trade union (GMB) which is developing its own life long learning programmes for members throughout the country helping to educate adults who for one reason or another did not have the opportunities at school.  We were keen to bring this culture into the workplace itself. We approached the HR team within FM with some ideas and suggestions and it became apparent that we could work together on a project that would be of benefit to all.”

There is no doubt that the formation of the learning partnership had its teething troubles, developing a learning agreement took time and effort but the GMB and management worked hard and the common goal was to develop a flexible, motivated and multi-skilled workforce. The learning agreement was signed in February 2010.


According to Paul Meehan, the workplace rep and ULR based at the Central Production Unit within FM: “Putting the vision into practice was not an easy task but after working hard as a team we reached the point where a learning agreement between the GMB and FM could be established. Working closely with Sue Ellin from the Conversion to Learning Project team and Colin Kirkham, GMB education officer, the union provided 8 fully functional computers which have now been installed in the learning centre for the use of all employees.” 

The immediate consequence of the agreement was the establishment of a learning steering group comprising of HR and its driving force Mike Gill, the FM training team, learning providers and of course the GMB. The purpose of the group is to identify learning needs of employees, engage with the providers and provide feed-back on the progress of learners. The agreement primarily targets blue collar workers within the catering and cleaning areas of the Council offering opportunities in skills for life (literacy and numeracy) and more recently supervisors and middle management looking at business improvement techniques.

Progress to date & timeline

  • July 2009 – Informal discussions between GMB reps and HR begin
  • August 2009 – ULR completes a learning workplace mapping exercise at the CPU which is to be a pilot scheme
  • October 2009 – Regular meetings are now taking place with the involvement of the GMB learning team and regional education officer – Learning facility and provision of computers agreed
  • February 2010 – Learning agreement signed at event. CPU GMB members sign up to undertake literacy/numeracy training & GMB members attend TUC computer training at Bradford College
  • May 2010 onwards – Literacy & Numeracy courses made available for employees based at catering units and cleaning staff. First batch of learners receive certificates ranging from entry level to level 1 in adult literacy/numeracy
  • 2011 – Bits (business improvement techniques) aimed at middle managers and supervisors within FM
  • July 2011 – Certificates awarded to learners. Literacy/numeracy and Bits awards.
  • 2012 – Bits (business improvement techniques) aimed at middle managers and supervisors within FM.  (NVQ’s Team Leader/Business Manager/Cleaning/Cookery).
  • 2012 – Fire Safety Training
  • 2013 – Various Courses targeted for the Workforce/Membership.

Learning Providers

Bradford Council (skills for work) – Literacy/Numeracy 
Develop U – Bits courses 
TUC (Bradford College) – ICT training 
Options available Northern College, Bradford & Leeds College

What does the future hold?

Going forward and providing we have the commitment of the employer to carry on with this joint working we would like to expand and look at offering similar learning opportunities to members working in other departments of the Council. One area with a large blue collar section of employees would be Environment & Sport which employs members who work in refuse collection and parks and landscapes. With the right application so much can be achieved.

Special thanks to Mike Gill and his team for their commitment and assistance. 

Workforce Development Awards


Pictured are:  Mike Cowlam (Assistant Director Economic Development and Property, FM) Councillor David Green, Sue Ellin, Toby Rackham and members who received certificates for Literacy/Numeracy.


Interested in becoming a GMB ULR…......??

Undertaking the ULR Education path is great assistance for any GMB Member who is keen to negotiate opportunities connected to Training for their Workforce & Membership attached.  From the ULR`s training we gain the insight & confidence which helps build good working relations that is essential & is rewarding for the outcome of any project itself & Everyone involved.

Bradford`s “Learning Agreement” targets & proposals…..!!

As part of development within the “Learning Agreement” in Bradford, we have again forwarded proposals to introduce evening classes for GMB members. Though our members have the opportunity to undertake course within our agreed Learning Project, the evening sessions can give further assistance to the membership who dont get the opportunity to be released during their working hours or simply work part-time.

On behalf of the GMB, talks have taken place with Bradford College and other providers who are keen to assist and add opportunities for our members to access courses in the evenings.  GMB will always have a vital and valuable role to play in connection with the Learning Project within Bradford FM/HR and we have worked hard to establish this bond over the last four years or so.

Our union unlike our other union competitors have been part of the Learning Agreement in Bradford since day one and nothing will replace the input GMB plays to provide training for our members and keep us a step ahead of other unions in this field.  As a Union, we are proud to be part of the Learning Agreement in Bradford and each year the amount of certificates gained increases which shows it is the right direction the project is going in.

As ULR`s the experience we gain plays a vital role to ensure all parties meet each others needs and put in place a solid foundation to obtain a working relationship together for the benefit of everyone involved. 

Further talks have been agreed and Bradford GMB have welcomed the various courses that can become available for our members that have been highlighted and covered to date.
The GMB aims to provide the best opportunities in relation to training for members and maintain our position as the best union in this field to cement our position today and for the future ahead.

Paul Meehan (Bradford ULR)