Trades Union Councils represent an important form of union organisation: local trade union branches acting together in pursuit of a common agenda within the community. The capacity for a reinvigorated trades union council to take action and to mobilise workers in support of campaigns is vast. Trades Union Councils should act on this by working with trade union branches to build organisation locally, but they must also take a lead in forging links with other parts of the community. Crucial to this is identifying issues on which unions and other organisations share a common agenda – an agenda based on the pursuit of social justice.
Our argument has to be that only through union strength can we win rights at work and deliver a better quality of life for people throughout society. Trades Union Councils need to make the case for a broad coalition, which tackles injustices, both in the workplace and in the community. This Programme of Work provides a framework for Trades Union Council action to build union organisation, form community alliances and raise the profile of the labour movement generally.
This year’s programme identifies three broad areas of work Employment Rights; Public Services and Trades Union Council Activity in the Community.
Employment Rights – Migrant Workers, Racism & Low Pay
In developing this part of the Programme of Work there was recognition that there was some considerable overlap between the three target areas – migrant workers, racism and low pay. Many migrant workers are found in low paid jobs – particularly when they do not speak English. Migrants are always a potential target for xenophobes and racists. Equally it is important to recognise that these problems are not always so interrelated. Not all migrants are low paid and many non-migrant workers are low paid. Similarly many black Britons are subject to racist abuse despite being born in the UK.
Trades Union Councils should promote the economic and social case for migrant workers. Without migrant labour many of our public services could not function e.g. health. Migrant workers are helping to grow the economy and are net contributors – to a greater extent on average than non-migrant workers.
Many people arriving in the UK are unaware of their rights, and organisations working with migrant workers have to recognise their specific needs and be able to provide them with sound advice. For trade unions it is also an opportunity to organise and recruit these new entrants to the workforce. Trades Union Councils should support migrant workers in their communities, as well as helping unions to organise migrant workers in the workplace.
Trades Union Councils should:
help combat the exploitation of migrant workers
work with unions to identify workplaces with a migrant workforce
approach local authorities for information they have on the local community
work with community groups and unions to ensure that health and safety legislation is understood by migrant workers and complied with in their work environment
develop links with community groups to support migrant workers
identify people with language skills who can help to talk to migrant workers
help migrant workers gain access to English language courses
organise advice surgeries for migrant
use informal or social events to initially draw in migrant workers
TUCJCC to compile a report from Trades Union Councils on best practice
The TUC is committed to tackling racism in all its forms. Trades Union Councils support those communities being targeted and challenge the arguments of racist groups that attempt to intimidate, spread fear and increase racial hatred.
Trades Union Councils should work with trade unions within their region to help challenge racism within the workplace. This could include strategies to reach out to young people, working with groups such as the PFA\’s Kick Racism out of Football. Religious leaders should also be asked to provide statements against racism and fascism. Trades Union Councils should make use of TUC materials to counter myths about asylum-seekers and migrant workers. Trades Union Councils should promote an awareness of the difference between asylum-seekers and migrant workers.
Trades Union Councils should also campaign against poverty and deprivation and ensure that local politicians respond to this agenda.
Trades Union Councils should engage with local communities and act as a link between communities. Trades Union Councils should get involved in festivals, which promote good relations within local communities. Trades Union Councils are encouraged to:
create links with ethnic minority self-help groups and Community Relations Councils to promote equality at work and celebrate diversity
monitor the media for appearances by fascists and watch out for the circulation of racist propaganda
work with the local media to dispel fascist myths about migrants
where no anti-racist organisation currently exists, Trades Union Councils and County Associations should call a meeting to establish a broad-based anti-racist coalition
these coalitions should affiliate to the Unite Against Fascism /Searchlight or similar anti-fascist campaigns
where possible, Trades Union Councils should co-operate with students’ unions and community groups to increase voter registration
It is acknowledged that there continues to be widespread support for our public services. For example, combating attacks on the NHS is fertile ground for involving trade unions and members of the general public. Similarly there is a need to engage with the general public and unions to defend sub-post offices from closer. Sub-post offices which are frequently located in deprived urban areas and are often the only financial services available locally.
Trades Union Councils should:
Trades Union Councils need to campaign to oppose cuts in NHS provision unless they can be justified on clinical grounds’
redouble their efforts to encourage all health service branches to affiliate to their local Trades Union Councils
work to ensure health workers are valued for the service they provide, and that attacks on jobs are opposed
work with unions to recruit and organise health sector workers to join unions
support calls for properly funded public services
build links with other organisations campaigning to defend the health service including affiliating to ‘Keep Our NHS Public’
join with the unions and the local public in opposing the closure of sub-post offices
present the economic case for keeping sub-post offices open
Trades Union Council Activity in the Community
Boosting affiliations should be a top priority for all Trades Union Councils. The activities of the Trades Union Councils need to be relevant to the concerns and issues facing unions and their branches. Trades Union Councils should :
match this Programme of Work to the needs of union branches and the local community
seek access to schools through local union branches
work with others to establish courses for Trades Union Council officers
seek to have an input into trade union
rep training so that the role and value of Trades Union Councils can be explained
encourage better participation and representation of women, black and young members and press local unions to support this effort
work with Community Networks to become the voice of trade unionism in the community
review how they operate to ensure that new delegates find it as easy as possible to attend regularly and participate in their activities
ensure that venues are chosen that are acceptable to all
seek participation in appropriate public consultative and representative bodies
arrange meetings with high profile speakers who can address topical issues. These could take the form of open meetings
support relevant cultural events e.g. radical theatre and histories of the labour movement
share best practice with other Trades Union Councils through email and websites
develop links with the media
engage on climate and recycling issues
To support Trades Union Councils implement the campaigning ideas outlined in this Programme of Work, the TUC General Council devotes £21,000 of the Development Fund. Grants of up to £300 are distributed by the TUC Regional Secretaries for activities developed in line with this programme. An application form is available from the TUC Regional Office. Trades Union Councils are encouraged to make joint bids for grants in order to fund collaborative projects.
County Associations of Trades Union Councils can also access the Development Grant to run campaigns with the specific goal of:
establishing new Trades Union Councils
revitalising existing Trades Union Councils
boosting branch affiliations to Trades Union Councils
As part of their activity to rebuild Trades Union Councils campaign bids may also include applications to cover administrative costs, including travel costs associated with participation in wider TUC structures and organisation.
Those County Associations submitting bids should identify clear goals with measurable outcomes, such as boosting the number of branches affiliating to Trades Union Councils or establishing new Trades Union Councils. Examples of how Development Funding was spent in 2006 – 2007 include:
Brent TUC – Grunwick memorial activities
Re-establishment of Somerset CATUC
Merseyside CATUC – May Day festival
Swansea CTUC – Support for Migrant Workers
Wolverhampton TUC – Anti-BNP
Medway TUC – Conference on Asbestos
issued 14 Nov 2007