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date: 11 September 2012

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Janette Dunbar, a Unite member working at Diageo in Kilmarnock has received the prestigious TUC Learning Rep of the Year Award. She was presented with the award by outgoing General Secretary of the TUC Brendan Barber and Labour Shadow Chancellor Ed Balls at Congress today.

When drinks giant Diageo - makers of Johnnie Walker whisky among other famous brands - announced it was closing its plant in Kilmarnock Janette threw herself into the battle to save it. When it became clear that wouldn't be possible, she changed tack, trained as a Union Learning Rep (ULR) and set up a workplace learning programme to help her colleagues prepare for the future.

Starting with surveying the learning needs of the workforce, Janette and her colleagues used the 700+ responses they received to persuade management to get on board and provide facilities for a training suite and meeting room.

Though the company rebuffed attempts to negotiate time off for training, Janette and her team still managed to run 22 courses for 159 people. Working with external partners like Kilmarnock College and the Scottish Government's Partnership Action for Continuing Employment (PACE) redundancy response team, courses covering everything from computer skills, budgeting and book keeping to conversational Spanish gave workers at Diageo a new thirst for learning.

By the time the plant closed down in March this year, over 200 workers had transferred to new jobs in Diageo - many with the help of the skills they acquired thanks to the efforts of Janette and her team.

Janette retired in April after finishing her own Spanish and customer services courses. On receiving the award, she said 'I'm thrilled to receive this award. This is the icing on the cake. It's great that all the hard work has been acknowledged.'

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Press release (400 words) issued 11 Sep 2012