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I issued the following press release on 29.12.2005


Lynne Jones, MP for Birmingham Selly Oak, has backed Usdaw’s campaign to keep English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) courses free for migrant workers.

Lynne Jones MP has signed an Early Day Motion (EDM 383) that opposes proposals to charge low paid workers up to £400 to take language courses designed to aid integration into their workplaces and broader communities

ESOL courses are currently offered to migrant workers keen to sharpen their language skills but the Learning and Skills Council have announced changes to funding which means low paid retail workers will have to find up to £400 to get an ESOL qualification.

Usdaw’s network of Union Learning Reps have enabled thousands of migrant workers to access free ESOL classes that have clear economic benefits and help tackle social divisions, racism and the influence of extremists like the BNP.

Lynne Jones MP says:

“Making sure migrant workers can access free ESOL courses is about much more than allowing work colleagues to communicate better.  It’s about promoting mutual respect and understanding as well as tackling the evils of racism and social division.

This cut in funding is a mistake because the reality is many migrant workers are low paid and asking them to find hundreds of pounds for a course will prohibit them from signing up.  Improving language skills at no cost is without doubt one of the keys to fully integrating migrant workers into their workplaces and also into the wider community in which they and their family live.”

Usdaw has attracted support from retail and distribution businesses where migrant workers can often form a significant percentage of the workforce.

Usdaw’s General Secretary, John Hannett, says:

“Usdaw has already had assurances from big players that they support our campaign because they see the clear benefits to their businesses from a fully integrated workforce. 

Aside from the obvious health and safety benefits, companies where ESOL has been offered report much reduced staff turnover rates which can lose businesses millions in retraining costs.

Many in the business community already support ESOL students by providing time off for them to study and report improved teamwork which boosts their profitability.”


Notes to Editors:

On the 18 October, the Learning and Skills Council announced its intention to change the funding for ESOL – to restrict full fee remission (ie. free tuition) to those on Working Families Tax Credits. The rest would have to pay a £300 -£400 tuition fee.

  • Only 3% of migrant workers claim Working Families Tax Credit.

  • 78% of migrant workers earn £4.50 to £5.99 per hour, which means the tuition fee will be beyond the reach of most migrant workers.

These changes will shift the burden of paying for ESOL classes on to some of the lowest paid,. most vulnerable people in society.

Visit Usdaw website to find out more:

Or, ring the Usdaw helpline on 0845 6060640

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