National TUC Strategy for the Defence of the TUC Unemployed Workers’ Centres


Motion submitted by TUC Trades Unions Councils Conference to the Trades Union Congress 2009; the first time that this has been possible, thanks to the RMT's successful motion to Congress the previous year.

 "Congress appreciates the contribution made since the TUC Congress of 1981 instructed Trades Union Councils to establish the TUC Unemployed Workers Centres, to represent Congress on issues of unemployment and poverty.

In what could turn out to be the greatest economic slumps since the 1930s, millions of workers face job losses, homelessness and poverty, at a time when TUC Unemployed Workers Centres in England have reduced in numbers to 35 from a peak of 200 in 1986.

Congress proposes the following campaigns to unite the trade union movement. Congress believes this could be the basis of a 2009 response by the TUC to the economic slump:

i) a national launch of a campaign to support the TUC Congress motion of 2008 opposing the Government’s welfare reforms

ii) a national launch of a campaign calling for state intervention to protect jobs, similar to the state intervention to bail out the bankers

iii) a national launch of a trade union-led campaign to establish a redundancy counselling service for workers losing their jobs

iv) a national launch of a campaign to protect workers from unfair dismissal by employers using the economic slump as an excuse to get rid of staff who stand up for their rights

v) a national launch of a campaign against poverty for workers with and without jobs in this time of economic slump

vi) a national launch of a campaign to save the TUC Unemployed Workers Centres

vii) a national launch of One Fund For All in every workplace in our regions where we have union members, to raise funds for our centres to continue their commitment to the unwaged."




Jeremy Dear (Trades Union Councils’ Joint Consultative Committee) moved Motion 82 at the 2009 Trade Union Congress:

He said: Comrades, sisters, brothers, I am the General Secretary of the NUJ but
here as Chair of the Trades Union Councils’ Joint Consultative Committee,
enormously proud and honoured to be moving this motion, the historic first
motion from the Trades Union Councils Conference. Trades councils back today
where they belong at the heart of our Movement. I have to tell you that when we
passed the groundbreaking motion last year which opened the door for today
there was some fear from the platform that the Trades Union Councils Conference
would table a crazy motion moved by an unreconstructed Marxist. They are at
least pleased that the motion is not crazy. Indeed, this is a motion that in its call
for solidarity with all workers — employed, under-employed or unwaged — strikes
at the very essence of what trade unionism is about, at the very heart of the crisis
faced by our members, irrespective of their industry, public or private sector,
whichever nation or region they work in: the scourge of mass unemployment. It is
a motion which makes clear in the face of predictions of jobless figures reaching 4
million that just as mass unemployment was not a price worth paying under the
Tories nor is it a price worth paying under New Labour. It is not a price worth
paying because we know that behind every grim unemployment statistic there is a
human story, the fear of a new lost generation, families driven apart by debt, the
descent into poverty, of communities wrecked, of hopelessness and despair. This
is also a motion which refuses to wallow in that despair but builds hope through
solidarity, a hope which recognises that the fight against unemployment is not a
question of resources but a question of political will. If the Government can find
£75bn for Trident, they can afford fair benefits, provide stronger support for
protecting jobs, properly resourced health, education and other public services
and, by the way, fund the planned extension in maternity leave. This is above all a
motion which alongside a call for an active campaigning strategy to tackle job cuts
and the economic crisis sets out a course of action to ensure that all in our
Movement are guaranteed our solidarity. When employers use unemployment to
drive down wages and make employment less secure, such solidarity is vital.
In the face of the last recession the TUC worked with trades union councils to
establish unemployed workers centres. These centres have continued to do
magnificent work alongside unions locally, helping to tackle the devastating impact
job losses had on too many communities. Yet just at the point at which the
millions of people’s lives again risk being blighted by the consequences of mass
unemployment we have just 35 centres in England down from a peak of 200 in
1986. It is time for us once again to turn our words into real support for the TUC
unemployed worker centres and for unions alongside county associations, the
regional TUC and others actively to seek to establish ones where they are needed
but do not exist, to build on the work already being done by the TUC through the
unions’ Active Communities Project, to support unions and their members in the
face of the recession, to provide a redundancy counselling service for members, to
re-establish and promote the effective operation of a fund, to provide a regular
income from union branches and employed workers, building links between local
workplaces and the centres, providing crucial financial support for the magnificent
advocacy, advice, and campaigning work of those centres.
Comrades, the Trades Union Councils Conference is proud to be represented here
today by this motion and thanks to all those unions which continue to support
their local trades union council, and calls on you to help us support the
unemployed workers. Thank you, comrades.

Cheryl Gedling (PCS) seconded Motion 82.
She said: The PCS is seconding this motion with great enthusiasm. We should not
forget that unemployed workers’ centres were created at the beginning of the last
great recession in the early 1980s. During the 1980s and the 1990s they were at
the heart of trade union campaigns against unemployment. Now, as
unemployment continues to rise and those on benefits are being targeted by the
introduction of Workfare and the punitive benefits regime, the support offered to
them by unemployed workers’ centres is more vital than ever.
But for the centres to achieve all that they are capable of achieving and for the
entire labour Movement to support the unemployed, we need to do more than
offer support when they are down. My own union, PCS, has led the way in
campaigning against the Government’s welfare reform plans. Let us be plain here.
The difference between Labour and the Tories on welfare reform is that between
Tweedledum and Tweedledee. It is simply absurd for some in the Labour
Government to point in horror at Tory plans for Workfare when it was this
Government which first planned and then implemented exactly this type of welfare
reform. It was Gordon Brown who decided that the best man to plan reform of the welfare system was ex-merchant banker, David Freud. He then accepted all of
his recommendations to part-privatise the system of welfare delivery to the longterm
unemployed and then put James Purnell in charge of implementing those
Of course, following the credit crunch and the bank failures, those plans began to
unravel. The Government’s publication of the preferred bidder list of companies to
deliver the so-called flexible new deal confirms that, contrary to earlier spin,
charities in the third sector providers have been excluded in favour of large private
sector companies such as Serco, which is a FTSE 100 listed public services provider,
which is earmarked for contracts worth £500 million.
The entire labour Movement should be campaigning against these plans no matter
what political colour they are. If they were wrong under the Tories then they are
wrong now. Similarly, it is urgent that we develop and tie together national
campaigns to protect and enhance employees’ rights in the recession, ensuring
that no more unemployed workers are there for the centres to deal with.
The motion outlines the different elements of this national campaign, some of
which are already underway and some of which need to be kick-started right now.
Some are very concrete such as campaigning for the creation of a National
Redundancy Counselling Service. It is in this context that we view with great alarm
the demise, or the often dire financial situation, of unemployed workers’ centres
throughout Britain. The funding constraint placed on many of the centres by
Labour-run councils is restricting many of them to the role of welfare rights advice
centres at best. The few remaining centres which have not been forced to close
now undertake little or no external campaigning.
Congress, we need to put this right. This motion seeks to tie the unemployed
workers’ centres back into a nationwide campaign to actively promote the interests
of workers. To that end, ordinary men and women, assisted by trade unions when
not even in work, who have no subs to offer us and who are not even members,
will not forget who helped them when they needed that help most. When they
are back in work, they will come back to the unions in much greater numbers than
before. Please support this motion.

Kathy Taylor (University and College Union) supported Motion 82.
She said: President, Congress, the mover of the motion referred to the TUC’s
Active Unions, Active Communities Network Programme. When you look at the
core principles of that, there is a clear synergy between it and the Trade Unions
Council motion. Every one of the principles effectively mirrors the core activities
and objectives of trade union councils and the TUC unemployed workers’ centres;
in particular, the commitment to tackle poverty and unemployment, to promote
trade unions and trade union membership and last, but not least, to provide
services and support to the community.
We all know that there are 6.5 million workers who are members of trade unions
and therefore have the support and backing of that membership, but there are
millions of workers out in the community who do not have this support. Many of
us here are fortunate enough to work for organisations both in the public and
private sector which have had well-established trade union organisations, but the
effects of changes in the structure of industry today have resulted in the vast majority of those who are lucky enough to be in work being employed by small companies with no tradition of trade unions, quite often with management actively hostile to trade union membership for their staff.
Whilst it is always our priority to recruit members, it must also be part of the remit
and responsibility of the trade union Movement to extend its support to all
workers, especially those who find themselves unemployed through no fault of
their own, and at the same time to demonstrate not just the benefits of
membership but also the genuine concern that the trade union Movement has for
all workers in struggle, particularly during a period of recession with the loss of
jobs which is a consequence of the current economic situation.
At a time when government and big business are abandoning them, we must
demonstrate that the trade union Movement will stand up and defend the rights
of all our brothers and sisters in and out of work. Those who find themselves out
of work are particularly vulnerable. The Unemployed Workers’ Centres offer a
crucial lifeline of support, encouragement, reassurance, practical advice and
guidance, education and training, all of which combine to help restore confidence,
dignity and self-worth at a time in their lives when so many factors are conspiring against them.
The genuine commitment to the Active Unions, Active Communities Network
means that it is vital that we support the campaigns called for in this motion and
promote the TUC Unemployed Workers’ Centres as it is clear that they will be one
of the key organisations in the practical delivery of the initiative. I urge you to support the motion.

The President: I am pleased to say that there is no opposition so we will move straight to the vote.
* Motion 82 was CARRIED


Unemployed Workers Centres

Unemployed Workers Centres don’t just help unemployed and disabled people to get the benefits they need to survive. They run training courses and other services to help their clients into jobs and out of poverty. In towns across the country, the task of representing the trade union movement on local and national government initiatives such as the New Deal, Employment Zones and European Social Fund projects is fulfilled by Unemployed Workers’ Centres. Some centres are going further, leading the way in developing positive labour market programmes. 

Unemployed Workers’ Centres help some of the poorest people in Britain to get benefits and jobs . They are developing new programmes to help socially excluded people back into the mainstream, and campaigning for reforms that will help claimants for years to come.

Click HERE for a comprehensive national list

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