Purpose – This paper aims to illustrate how innovative trade union strategies are emerging around the learning agenda and how these are being used to extend union strategies within the workplace and the community. However, it also shows how such strategies can be confronted with difficulties particularly when they are located in fixed spaces leaving them unable to develop or become sustainable once these spaces are challenged or closed due to inconsistent state and employer support. Design/methodology/approach – An in depth case study approach was adopted for the research, using predominantly semi-structured interviews with a wide range of individuals over an 18 month period. Findings – The paper suggests that although unions are increasingly pushing forward their learning agenda and developing workplace and community learning centres, which undoubtedly generate benefits for all stakeholders, their learning strategies are often fixed into specific, closed locations and spaces, finding it difficult to develop once these spaces are challenged or closed due to restructuring and organisational change. Research limitations/implications – The paper does not suggest that this case is representative of all learning initiatives but it does seem that learning as a part of the inclusion and union renewal agenda is not clearly co-ordinated in terms of their social, spatial and employment position. Originality/value – This paper represents new empirical research presented at a time when learning initiatives as well as community initiatives are high on government's agenda particularly as they are encouraging “the third sector” to play an increasing role in providing public services. Similarly, the paper addresses issues of ethnicity, migration and learning, again a topic high on government agendas.