AROUND 60 people turned out to oppose the planned closure of Blackburn College’s trade union health and safety education centre.

The college first announced the plan to close the centre on May 23, which has been met with opposition from trade unionists ever since.

Yesterday's protest took place from 1pm to 2pm and saw guest speakers from the Unison and GMB unions address the crowd.

Blackburn and District Trades Council Vice President John Murphy said: “This is the only TUC accredited training centre in Lancashire.

“If you shut it down then people in Blackburn are confronted with having to travel to Manchester or Liverpool, so you’ll have working people who have to do eight hours in the classroom who could then have a further two hours added onto that.”

He added: “This would deprive the working people of Lancashire of health and safety training.”

The training centre has existed in various guises since the 1970s but has been run from Blackburn College for the past 18 years, when it was moved back there from Preston.

The college had pledged to take good care of the centre and in that time over 15,000 trade union members, the majority of them safety reps, have been trained there.

As a result the training centre developed a reputation as a specialist in such matters.

Mr Murphy said: “It’s one of the most vibrant units in the north west, it’s trained a huge number of people.

“We’ve had a very strong local base for this campaign, but we’ve also had people coming down from Burnley, Preston and even as far afield as Cumbria.”

This was reflected in the range of speakers, which included Unison official Adil Barber, who drew connections between the health and safety work done by the college and the ongoing Black Lives Matter movement.

He pointed out that the issues were linked by the fact that black and minority ethnic people were disproportionately effected by the ongoing coronavirus pandemic and so an attack on workers health and safety also amounted to an attack on these communities.

He was joined by former tutor Dr Charlie Flutterbook and ex-MEP Michael Hindley as well as by messages of support from Blackburn MP Kate Hollern.

The college declined to comment on the protest but have said that the college will do all it can to avoid compulsory redundancies.