British Trade Union Congress, 150 years


This video from England says about itself:

Salford May Day Parade 2018 ¦ 150 Years Salford Trade Unions Council

Unionists and activists marched the streets of Salford in support of worker’s rights.

By Paula Barker in Britain:

Saturday, June 2, 2018

The core ideals of trade unionism endure from one generation to the next

THE occasion of the TUC’s 150th anniversary gives us the opportunity to step back and reflect on our movement’s past and future.

My own union Unison is a mere 25 years old and it was formed of three unions that did not even exist in 1868. Unison is now a mass public service union with a majority of female members.

The emergence and growth of such a union would have been very hard to imagine for our forebears 150 years ago.

Jeannie Mole is one of the characters from the past who we have been hearing about in this anniversary year.

Mole came to Liverpool in 1879 and set about organising female workers in laundries, sack-mending and rope-making.

These workers were subject to long hours and very poor employment conditions.

What Mole could see, that the male-dominated unions of the time could not, was that these exploited workers were potential union members. She did not accept that there are no-go areas for trade unions and for worker organisation — and neither should we today.

Things have changed dramatically since Mole’s time. The majority of union members are now women. I’m proud that one of Unison’s founding principles is proportionality of representation between women and men.

It is important that we continue to work to ensure that women’s concerns at work are union concerns.

In 1868, public service provision was negligible. There was no NHS, no free universal education, and no welfare state. The development of collective provision to meet social need is a great achievement of our labour movement.

It also meant the development of a large workforce. The public sector that grew after 1945 provided the environment in which Unison’s predecessor unions were able to thrive.

Unison remains primarily a public service union today, but that now means that members work for a huge range of employers — not only local councils, NHS trusts, police services and universities; but multinational companies, small businesses, voluntary organisations and care providers owned by private equity funds.

We must never fall into the trap of thinking that some groups of workers are beyond the reach of trade unionism. Unions don’t make that mistake any more in relation to women — but we need to remain relevant to workers whose jobs have been privatised, and to workers on a variety of casual and agency contracts.

Our movement is not complacent and unions are engaged in organising new groups of workers. High-profile examples include the GMB challenging Uber, and the BFAWU organising strike activity among McDonald’s workers.

It’s right that Unison is investing resources in promoting better employment standards in the privatised social care sector — including through our Care Workers for Change Campaign in north-west England.

The length of our history can sometimes be mistaken for evidence that unions are out-of-date or old-fashioned. But it should be taken instead as evidence of our adaptability and ability to survive through changes in our society and economy. The core ideals of trade unionism — collectivism, solidarity, equality, supporting one another — endure from one generation to the next.

Rodney Bickerstaffe, the first general secretary of Unison and champion of the minimum wage, said of union work: “We do our bit and pass it on.”

Rodney was being too modest about his own achievements — but he was right to suggest we should think of ourselves as being part of a great and enduring movement.

Paula Barker is Unison regional convener in the North West.

This video from Britain says about itself:

#TUC150: Building our movement for the next 150 years

3 October 2017

In 2018, we’ll be marking the TUC’s 150th anniversary. It’s an opportunity to celebrate our proud history. But even more importantly, it’s a chance for us to reach out to a new generation and get ready for the challenges of the next 150 years. Join us! www.tuc.org.uk/tuc150.

Providing solidarity since 1868. LYNN COLLINS looks at the history of the building which housed the the first TUC Congress 150 years ago: here.

Manchester’s proud history of radicalism and standing against injustice. The birthplace of the TUC has defined itself as a city where the voice of the voiceless can be heard, writes ANDY BURNHAM.

The trade union movement needs to start shifting gears into action: here.

THIS year is not only the TUC’s 150th anniversary but it is also the 100th anniversary of the founding of the Fire Brigades Union. Our centenary will be marked at our centenary annual conference in Brighton in June with a more expansive celebration in October: here.

AS SOME of the trade union movement’s most effective organisers and activists argue in today’s Morning Star, marking the TUC 150th anniversary this year cannot just consist of celebrating our achievements over that century and a half: here.

5 thoughts on “British Trade Union Congress, 150 years

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