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How the TUC works with unions

The TUC supports trade unions to grow and thrive, helping them represent their members and keep pace with the changing world of work. And just as workers benefit by joining together in a union, so unions gain strength by acting together through the TUC.

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All of the TUC’s policy development and campaigning work is decided with the involvement of TUC member unions. This happens both formally through Congress and the TUC’s committees and conferences, and informally, through small task groups and discussions with unions working in a particular industry or sector. 

Helping unions to grow and thrive

1. Policy, political and government engagement

The TUC briefs member unions on economic, equalities, workplace and social policy, and on trends in the workplace and economy. We engage with the government and political parties as they develop policy, responding to consultations and attending meetings on behalf of the union movement. And we run movement-wide campaigns on key issues that affect all unions.

The TUC co-ordinates union representation on public bodies and supports ongoing formal discussions with government, such as the joint forum for government and unions with members working in the public sector. We co-ordinate the UK trade union delegation to the ILO, a body of the UN, and to international and European trade union bodies. We also speak on behalf of the union movement in the media. You can read more here on international trade union structures.

2. Training union reps

Every year, the TUC trains thousands of union reps, enabling them to develop the skills, knowledge and confidence to represent their members at work. Our training offer can range from negotiating skills to tackling racism. We offer training in partnership with trade union education centres in colleges and much of the training is also available online via TUC Education.

3. Supporting unions to organise and grow

We help unions to grow, running organising training and working alongside unions to develop their recruitment and organising strategies.

In 2020, the TUC Organising Academy will offer a range of programmes designed to help unions increase membership, participation and effectiveness, in partnership with the Manchester College. Courses include:

  • the diploma in organising
  • the advanced certificate in organising
  • our supporting organising course, which is specifically for union staff in support roles to understand organising
  • communication and campaigns, which helps union staff understand how to frame campaigns for maximum impact.

We also provide bespoke courses for member unions, and we offer consultancy services to assist unions to develop and review their organising strategies, practice and campaigns.

4. TUC Digital Lab

We support our member unions in the urgent task of modernising to meet the challenges of the digital age.

In 2020, the TUC Digital Lab will work in partnership with affiliates to research and share best practice in digital transformation, digital communications and digital organising for unions.

The Digital Lab offers events, pilot projects, tools and hands-on experiences for unions that want to take their next steps together on the digital journey.

And through our Megaphone platform, we work with unions to run digital campaigns that help increase their campaigning impact and organising capacity.

Visit to find out more.

5. Developing trade union staff

We support the professional development of staff who work for unions, through formal training and through best practice events. We run a number of informal networks for trade union staff in similar jobs – for example, legal officers, HR officers, political staff and communicators. We also run the annual trade union communications awards.

We also run Leading Change, which is a strategic training and development programme for union leaders and senior officers.

TUC disputes, principles and procedures

The TUC Code of Practice incorporating the Principles governing the relations between unions sets out the framework for unions to work together, and to avoid damaging resource-consuming disputes.

This revised Code requires unions to notify the TUC of any applications for statutory recognition as well as any proposed single union agreements being reached on a voluntary basis. It also requires unions to respect existing representation rights in organised workplaces. The Code allows the TUC to conciliate where there are differences between affiliated unions and, if that fails, to use the more formal process of a Disputes Committee to resolve the matter.

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