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Trades Union Congress

Related subjects UK Politics & government

Trades Union Congress
Image:TUC Logo.gif
Trades Union Congress
Founded 1868
Members Approx 6.5 million (2006)
Country United Kingdom
Affiliation ITUC
Key people Dave Prentis, President
Brendan Barber, General Secretary
Office location Congress House, London
Website www.tuc.org.uk

The Trades Union Congress (TUC) is a national trade union centre, a federation of trade unions in the United Kingdom, representing the majority of trade unions. There are sixty five affiliated unions with a total of about seven million members.

The TUC's decision-making body is the Annual Congress, which takes place in September. Between Congresses decisions are made by the General Council, which meets every two months. An Executive Committee is elected by the Council from its members. The senior paid official of the TUC is the General Secretary, currently Brendan Barber.


The TUC was founded in the 1860s. The United Kingdom Alliance of Organised Trades, founded in Sheffield, Yorkshire, in 1866, was one of the forerunners of the TUC (though efforts to expand local unions into regional or national organisations date back at least forty years earlier; in 1822, John Gast formed a 'Committee of the Useful Classes', sometimes described as an early national trades council). However, the first TUC meeting was not held until 1868 when the Manchester and Salford Trades Council convened the founding meeting in the Manchester Mechanics Institute. The fact that the TUC was formed by Northern Trades Councils was not coincidental. One of the issues which prompted this initiative was the perception that the London Trades Council (formed in 1860 and including, because of its location, many of the most prominent union leaders of the day) was taking a dominant role in speaking for the Trade Union Movement as a whole.

Arising out of the 1897 Congress, a decision was taken to form a more centralised trade union structure that would enable a more militant approach to be taken to fighting the employer and even achieving the socialist transformation of society. The result was the General Federation of Trade Unions which was formed in 1899. For some years it was unclear which body (the GFTU or the TUC) would emerge as the national trade union centre for the UK and for a while both were recognised as such by different fraternal organisation in other countries. However, it was soon agreed amongst the major unions that the TUC should take the leading role and that this would be the central body of the organised Labour Movement in the UK. The GFTU continued in existence and remains to this day as a federation of (smaller, often craft-based) trade unions providing common services and facilities to its members (especially education and training services).

As the TUC expanded and formalised its role as the "General Staff of the Labour Movement" it incorporated the Trades Councils who had given birth to it - eventually becoming the body which authorised these local arms of the TUC to speak on behalf of the wider Trade Union Movement at local and County level. Also, as the TUC became increasingly bureaucratised, the Trades Councils (often led by militant and communist-influenced lay activists) found themselves being subject to political restrictions and purges (particularly during various anti-communist witch-hunts) and to having their role downplayed and marginalised. In some areas (especially in London and the South East) the Regional Councils of the TUC (dominated by paid officials of the unions) effectively took over the role of the County Associations of Trades Councils and these paid officials replaced elected lay-members as the spokespersons for the Trade Union Movement at County and Regional level. By the end of the 20th century local Trades Councils and County Associations of Trades Councils had become so ineffective and weak that many had simply faded into effective dissolution.

In early 1975 the TUC issued an invitation to Alexander Shelepin, the former Soviet KGB Chief, to visit Britain. This sparked a debate in the House of Commons during which Conservative Member of Parliament (MP) Julian Amery stated that "more and more people are beginning to look upon the TUC as a Communist-penetrated show and this invitation must strengthen that view."

The TUC was the body which initiated the Labour Representation Committee in the late 19th century (which went on to become the Labour Party). The major TUC affiliated unions still make up the great bulk of the British Labour Party affiliated membership, but there is no formal/organisational link between the TUC and the party.

The Scottish Trade Union Congress, which was formed in 1897, is a separate and autonomous organisation.

List of members

Contents: Top - 0–9 A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z


  • The Abbey National Group Union (ANGU)
  • Alliance and Leicester Group Union of Staff (ALGUS)
  • Aspect (Association of Professionals in Education and Children's Trusts) [formerly National Association of Educational Inspectors, Advisers and Consultants (NAEIAC)]
  • Associated Society of Locomotive Engineers and Firemen (ASLEF)
  • Association for College Management (ACM)
  • Association of Educational Psychologists (AEP)
  • Association of Flight Attendants (AFA)
  • Association of Teachers and Lecturers (ATL)


  • Bakers, Food and Allied Workers Union (BFAWU)
  • Britannia Staff Union (BSU)
  • British Air Line Pilots Association (BALPA)
  • British Association of Colliery Management - Technical, Energy and Administrative Management (BACM-TEAM)
  • British Dietetic Association (BDA)
  • British and Irish Orthoptic Society (BOS)
  • Broadcasting, Entertainment, Cinematograph and Theatre Union (BECTU)


  • Card Setting Machine Tenters Society (CSMTS)
  • Chartered Society of Physiotherapy (CSP)
  • Communication Workers Union (CWU)
  • Community
  • Community and District Nursing Association (CDNA)
  • The Community and Youth Workers' Union (CYWU)
  • Connect


  • Derbyshire Group Staff Union
  • Diageo Staff Association


  • Educational Institute of Scotland (EIS)
  • Engineering and Fastener Trade Union (EFTU)


  • FDA
  • Fire Brigades Union (FBU)


  • General Union of Loom Overlookers (GULO)
  • GMB


  • Hospital Consultants and Specialists Association (HCSA)


  • Musicians' Union (MU)


  • NAPO
  • National Association of Colliery Overmen, Deputies and Shotfirers (NACODS)
  • National Association of Co-operative Officials (NACO)
  • National Association of Schoolmasters Union of Women Teachers (NASUWT)
  • National Union of Domestic Appliances and General Operatives (NUDAGO)
  • National Union of Journalists (NUJ)
  • National Union of Marine, Aviation and Shipping Transport Officers (NUMAST)
  • National Union of Mineworkers (NUM)
  • National Union of Teachers (NUT)
  • Nationwide Group Staff Union (NGSU)


  • Prison Officers Association (POA)
  • Professional Footballers Association (PFA)
  • Prospect
  • Public and Commercial Services Union (PCS)


  • RMT (National Union of Rail, Maritime and Transport Workers)


  • Sheffield Wool Shear Workers Union (SWSWU)
  • SKISA (Skipton Staff Association)
  • Society of Chiropodists and Podiatrists (SCP)
  • Society of Radiographers (SoR)


  • Transport and General Workers' Union (T&G)
  • Transport Salaried Staffs' Association (TSSA)


  • UBAC (Union for Bradford and Bingley Staff and Staff in Associated Companies)
  • Undeb Cenedlaethol Athrawon Cymru (UCAC)
  • Union of Construction, Allied Trades and Technicians (UCATT)
  • Union of Shop, Distributive and Allied Workers (USDAW)
  • United Road Transport Union (URTU)
  • Unity (ceramics industry workers, formerly CATU)
  • University and College Union (UCU)


  • The Writers' Guild of Great Britain (WGGB)


  • Yorkshire Independent Staff Association (YISA)
Make Poverty History banner in front of Trades Union Congress.
Make Poverty History banner in front of Trades Union Congress.

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