TRADE unionists in Blackburn have stepped up their campaign to save the town’s health and safety training centre with a video appeal bringing together union officials, political figures and former trainees.

Blackburn College Trade Union Health and Safety Training Centre has been under threat since college management announced its planned closure in May, with union members having responded with several public protests.

The new video has now allowed supporters to explain why they believe the centre is so important.

Blackburn Councillor Saima Afzul MBE said: “I just cannot fathom the removal or the need to remove the ability to have appropriate learning opportunities for local union representatives in Lancashire.

“I know from my own experience the importance of having local learning opportunities and facilities.”

Councillor Afzul stressed that the centre is not just vital to protecting health and safety but has played a key role in promoting community cohesion in the town.

She said: “I know for certain from my own experiences that the trade union learning centre has been pivotal in coordinating anti-racist campaigns and they’ve played a key role in campaigning against racism and discrimination in its various forms.”

Leading figures from unions across the region have also pointed out how the coronavirus crisis has heightened the need for effective training.

Lancashire Association of Trades Councils secretary Peter Billingham said: “We’re in an uncertain employment situation but when people want security and protection they turn to trade unions.”

He added: “There’s still a need for that high level of training for representatives.

“There’s a clear duty for employers in the current situation as workers return to work following the coronavirus outbreak and where there are trained health and safety trade union representatives that tends to push up the standards for all representatives.”

“It would be very short sighted for Blackburn College to go ahead and close the trade unions study centre in the current situation and it would in fact make Blackburn College look small as far as its stated commitment to serving the wider community is concerned.”

Campaigners how vowed to continue their efforts for the foreseeable future.

Blackburn and District Trades Union Council president Vikki Dugdale said: “We are committed to saving this resource that is needed now more than ever in Lancashire.

“We especially need health and safety education as we ease the lockdown to make sure that our working environments are safe places to return to.

“The centre plays an essential role in making sure that the people representing workers have the skills and knowledge to do this.”

Blackburn College has insisted that the closure will not adversely affect the student experience.

A spokesperson said: “We are confident that as a result of the current proposed efficiencies no student or employer in the region will notice a change in the level of service they receive.”