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.
Following the discussions and debates at the 2009 trades union councils’ conference, and consideration by the Trades Union Councils Joint Consultative Committee, the TUCJCC has published the following programme of work for 2009 to 2010.
The programme consists of five main areas of work – Organising; New Media; Dealing with the Recession; Fighting Fascism and; Developing Green Trade Union Councils.
Unions need to put more energy, focus and resources into organising and recruitment but the emphasis should be on new activists not just new members. Without more activists supporting members and promoting the union increased membership cannot be sustained.
Trades union councils work with local community organisations around a number of campaigns which can be identified in the nature of development fund grants made to trades union councils. Trades union councils will be encouraged and, where possible, given suitable support to turn those collaborations into organising opportunities.
Trades union councils need to realise that collaboration is a two way process and that the community and campaign groups they may work with, and contribute to, should also be encouraged to participate in local union and trade union council activities. Trade union councils need to identify organisations they work with and establish a programme with which they can engage those groups.
Trades union councils and county associations are ideally placed to assist in organising campaigns or local campaigns to build union awareness, working with affiliated unions at local level to support such campaigns.
Trades union councils have also been active in the work on vulnerable and migrant workers but this is more likely to have been as part of local campaigns rather than as part of a co-ordinated approach to the issue which could be supported by affiliated unions at national level as well as the TUC.
County associations, working with regional TUCs, should assist and co-ordinate the delivery of TUed training and similar resources on the organising agenda to trades union councils in their area.
Trades union councils should consider ways in which they engage with community organisations and to assess how local union input into those community groups can be improved.
Trades union councils to consider how they engage with the Active Union Active Communities agenda and programme, develop appropriate links ensuring, through the County Association, that the Regional TUC is kept appraised of such developments.
The TUCJCC will consider what suitable resources are needed, the ways to supply such resources to the Movement and to act as overall co-ordinators.
Trades union councils are a vital link in the union movement’s work in the community and for promoting trade unions.
In order to do this trades union councils need to ensure that the message they are portraying is clear and reaches the widest number of people. Trades union councils will need to assess the various methods they use for communicating with the community and with affiliated organisations and consider ways in
which they can use new technology and the new media for this work. This may include the development of websites, Facebook groups, blogs, YouTube and various other forms of new media.
As part of their work this year trades union councils need to recognise the opportunities that the various forms of new media offer to reach younger workers. Trades unions councils are asked to view their website as a one-stop-shop for all labour movement campaigns and activities in their area. The website should also be used as a one-stop-shop for resources available in the local area for dealing with the recession. This activity would be an ideal use of the development grant in addition to the campaigning work of the council.
Some trades union councils make excellent use of their website but many contain out of date information. Trades union councils are asked to review the status of their website and, if they are unable to maintain the site as a useful tool, arrange to have the site closed as such sites are detrimental to the public image of the trade union movement. Those trades union councils which wish to maintain and improve their site but may not have the skills to do so should contact the regional TUC to ascertain what training and support there may be at a local level.
The TUCJCC will assess how it can assist trades union councils in achieving these goals for example through the use of the development grant and training.
The TUCJCC is establishing a website for the TUCJCC and the wider trades union council movement. This will go live before the end of 2009. The site will contain information about the work of the TUCJCC, trades union councils’ conference, model rules etc., as well as news and information about upcoming events of interest to trades union councils. All trades union councils will have a site linked to this website on which generic information and details of local trades union council officers will be posted directly. This will be of use to those that do not currently have a website or who wish to start one but do not know how. Links can be made to those that do have a site and are being run successfully. The TUCJCC will publish further information on this development later in the year.
Dealing with the recession
Trades Union Councils are to develop a programme in their area that would respond to the particular needs of their community during the economic down-turn.
Trades union councils to identify ways in which information about unions and the assistance that they can give can best be disseminated in their area.
The TUC has developed advice material on coping with the economic down-turn and is available for dissemination by trades union councils.
During the year each trade union council should review their relationship to their local unemployed workers’ centre, where it exists, and assess whether the Council’s and union input and support is sufficient.
Where UWCs do not exist, consideration should be given to the establishment of such a centre. Considerations would include the need for such a centre, what additional benefits would a TUC UWC bring not already available through existing agencies and whether working with/through other agencies may be more effective. Discussions with an existing centre would be useful. Contact details for local Unemployed Workers’ Centres can be found on the TUC web site by going to www.tuc.org.uk/the_tuc/tuc-8444-f0.cfm
Establishing such a service is not a simple task and discussions, if the task is taken forward, would need to be held with the County Association, the Regional TUC and possibly the National Committee Meeting of Unemployed Workers Centres (NCMUWC).
One Fund For All (OFFA) describes a fund-raising operation for TUC Unemployed Workers’ Centres based on a voluntary levy of employed trade union members. The development of an OFFA, within a locality seeks to ensure a positive financial commitment from the local trade union Movement in assisting the unemployed through TUC Centres for the Unemployed. An OFFA Scheme seeks to encourage the positive identification of employed trade unionists with the work of Centres by the development of a "check-off" deduction from their weekly or monthly earnings.
This financial support is in addition to existing funding or, where necessary, a viable alternative to unstable funding, perhaps of a temporary nature.
Where an OFFA Scheme exists, trades union councils can practically support UWCs by promoting the Scheme with their affiliated union branches. Trades union councils should establish a year on year programme for this. Where an OFFA Scheme does not exist, trades union councils or county associations should consider establishing a Scheme to support the local UWC. For more information about One Fund for All, click on OFFA for a link to a PDF document on OFFA.
The TUC will review the current status of the National Appeal for the Unemployed. The National Appeal provides a logical donation point for national organisations wishing to contribute, and provide necessary cover for those areas that may have difficulty in establishing OFFA schemes. The review will look at how effective the current scheme is and whether it should continue. If it does continue in what format should it continue and what measures need to be taken to ensure that any revised National Appeal is effective. Any future National Appeal needs to be co-ordinated with the OFFA Scheme.
Fighting Fascism and the Far Right
The threat of the growth of the far right will continue particularly during the recession when groups on the right will use xenophobia to exploit the unemployed and to play on people’s unfounded fears for their future, offering simplistic solutions in terms which are nothing but racism.
Working with other groups in their communities, and their Regional TUC, the trade union councils will develop a programme to counter act the activities of the far right which could include anti-fascist material and information, public meetings and events celebrating diversity.
Developing Green Trade Union Councils
Trade unions have a long history of taking action on environmental issues, campaigning for a safer, healthier working and living environment. According to a YouGov survey, 70% of workers said they would like to do more about climate change but felt that they needed more support from their employers. Union environmental strategies on greening the workplace can bring spin-off benefits by renewing union activity at work, addressing a modern and crucial challenge for working people.
The environment is of major concern to younger people whose interests are often focused on the subject and who may have low awareness of trade unions, while older members see the environment as a fresh reason to get active again.
Trades union councils should build links with local environmental campaign groups enabling organising opportunities and ensuring that trade unionists are recognised as part of the community. This should also open up opportunities for local environmental groups to help the union Movement with its greening the workplace agenda.
Trades union councils should promote the role of the workplace union green representatives (UGR) with affiliated branches, work locally with other community groups to raise the profile of the unions and the green environment and to campaign for changes in government legislation to give more rights to UGRs.