Chapter 12 - at work in the regions
This chapter covers the TUC=s regional activity and services including the TUC Education Service, the work of the TUC=s Regional Councils, Trades Union Councils and Unemployed Workers= Centres.
During 1997 the TUC Education Service has further developed its services to affiliates as a leading provider of high quality training for union workplace representatives. Course enrolments have remained steady despite the difficulties faced by many trade union representatives in obtaining paid release for training. The statistics for 1997 (see pages 183-185) show a continuing and steady demand for the range of core courses with an increase in demand for follow-on and specialist courses. One notable development is the surge of enrolments in the area of evening classes and own-time study programmes. This builds on the trends identified in the previous Congress year, and points in particular to the importance of the progression routes the TUC has put in place. The accreditation of TUC courses has proved to be particularly successful, with remarkable rates of take up of credits and a high rate of achievement by stewards and safety representatives.
Although the budget for short courses has been substantially reduced, they remain an important feature of the programme in supporting national TUC priorities and demands from affiliates. Work is in progress to integrate the use of short courses and short course credits into TUC Awards to strengthen the multi-entry, multi-exit nature of the programme.
Seminars for full time officers and senior union representatives have also been organised on current issues and TUC priorities, including pensions, health and safety, the New Deal, the Disability Discrimination Act and the Working Time Directive. Some resources are also devoted to arranging trade union studies for young people and school students, and new materials have been developed to support this. Courses continue to be held periodically with TUC Unemployed Workers Centres.
The TUC Education Service is based on partnerships and during a time of rapid change and limited resources, the long standing link with Colleges of Further Education and the Workers= Educational Association have made it possible to maintain and extend the resource base for trade union education. Trade Union Studies Units are now at the heart of wider college structures with considerable mutual benefits and the TUC continues to enjoy positive professional relationships with college managers and tutors. This relationship will be one of the established bases from which the TUC Learning Services project is launched (see appendix 1). The TUC wishes to record its appreciation of the significant contribution made by colleges, the WEA, their staff and those trade unionists who serve on TUC Education Advisory Committees in maintaining and developing the TUC Education Service.
The TUC also wishes to record its appreciation to the National Open College Network (NOCN) for the work undertaken with the TUC to ensure that the accreditation project meets quality assurance demands without sacrificing sensitivity, flexibility and control.
The TUC continues to play an active role as a partner in the Employment National Training Organisation (Employment NTO, formerly EOSC) and is involved in the setting of occupational standards across the employment field.
The TUC Education Service has worked in partnership with the National Open College Network (NOCN) for almost two years and all TUC courses offer credits which validate achievement in learning. A fundamental principle, established in the initial stages of the project was that the decision to register for assessment and credits rests solely with the learner and the TUC Education Service has been punctilious in ensuring that this is the case. Union representatives continue to take advantage of the opportunity to gain credits and take up, and achievement levels remain significantly higher than initial expectations, with some regions showing over 90 per cent registration consistently over the two year period. Trade union learners have been awarded over 100,000 credits since the beginning of the project, and it is estimated that each year, over 60,000 credits will be awarded through the TUC Education Service programme. In addition, it is important to note that students are achieving levels 2 and 3, an indication of the degree to which skills and knowledge in this area of study are recognised. These remarkable figures demonstrate the way accreditation has been structured to fit the purposes and ethos of the courses and underline the accuracy of the view held by a minority some years ago that union representatives were being >shortchanged= in not receiving credits for their achievements in learning.
The TUC Education Service is concerned to ensure that a judgement on the success of the accreditation project is not undertaken solely at face value. It is essential to look in a detailed way at the effects of accreditation on the programme from the perspectives of the learners themselves and to take account of tutorsÕ perceptions. City University=s Department of Continuing and Adult Education was asked to undertake a research programme with the following objectives:
to identify whether the operation of assessment for credit is perceived as, or operates as, a barrier to participation by certain groups;
to identify the impact of accreditation on the delivery of the curriculum and the working culture of the group;
to identify what practices adopted by tutors in the implementation of credit based learning and its assessment have particular significance for the student experience (ie identifying good practice);
to identify union representatives= expectations of and attitudes towards the use of credits.
The report will be available in the autumn and will provide for a thorough analysis of work to date and an agenda for the next twelve months.
At present, TUC accreditation can only be achieved through attendance on courses. This means that those union representatives who have successfully completed TUC courses in the past, and who have received a TUC certificate of attendance only, are unable to receive formal acknowledgement, through credits, of the learning achieved. This has lead to some demand for accreditation of prior learning and the TUC Education Service is examining what can be done to satisfy this demand. A New Opportunity for Women (NOW) project carried out by TUC Education in the South West has developed an innovative fast track programme based on the Accreditation of Prior Learning (APL) for women representatives.
The skills of trade union representatives are now recognised in a national system of credits which can be used in a range of ways to provide access to further learning. It is now generally recognised that around 16 OCN Credits at levels 2 and (particularly) 3 are equivalent to 2 or 3 >A= levels and therefore qualify for university admission in a related area of study (this is what is meant by >progression=). The TUC works with a range of universities, both formally and informally, to ensure that union representatives= learning can be taken account of in admission to appropriate degree courses and to enable integration of early parts of the degree into the certificate course. This area is complex and developing rapidly, and the TUC Education Service now occupies a secure position in mainstream education and training and the national credit framework from which it can build.
The TUC now offers three longer programmes of study, all accredited through NOCN, which are designed to follow on from the core provision. These are the TUC Certificate in Industrial/Trade Union Studies, the TUC Certificate in Occupational Safety and Health and the TUC Certificate in Information Technology. All are listed under Schedule 2(c) of the Further and Higher Education Act and are kitemarked as access courses into Higher Education.
Work is in progress to develop open learning options for the Occupational Safety and Health Certificate and on a number of TUC Awards which would be listed under Schedule 2(a) of the Further and Higher Education Act, as follows:
Union Representatives Award (Intermediate)
Union Representatives Award (Advanced)
Health and Safety Representatives= Award (Intermediate)
Health and Safety Representatives= Award (Advanced)
The outstanding gap in the suite of standards developed for workplace representatives has been filled by the completion of the standards for Health and Safety Representatives. The project was funded by the Employment NTO and was overseen by the Development Group which worked on the development of the workplace representatives= standards. A series of focus groups was convened to examine an initial draft and further consultation took place through questionnaires, meetings etc. The final set of standards were presented to the Employment NTO=s Standards and Qualifications Group for endorsement and from there to the full Council. They have been integrated into the Functional Map of the role of Trade Union Workplace Representatives, and they will be used in an audit of health and safety training provision which will take place next year.
A number of affiliated unions are in the process of accrediting their own course programme, or part of their course programme. The TUC has in place an experienced team which is providing assistance in accrediting programmes, through defining learning outcomes, writing assessment criteria and preparing units for recognition panels. Additionally, unions may, on request, access TUC credit units for use on appropriate courses. The TUC Education Service has developed a three-day course for union education professionals, >Accreditation and Trade Union Education= covering accreditation and assessment which was run for union education officers and tutors during this year. The course offered a credit at level 3.
TUC Trades Union Studies tutors have been essential to the bedding-in of the accreditation project, as they had been in the initial developmental phase. During 1997, a programme targeted at tutor development was piloted and established, and in particular, the two key TUC Tutor Training courses, Stage 1 Union Representatives and Health and Safety Tutor Training, offered credits, both subject specific and a general >Teaching and Learning= option, at level 3. During this year, work is in progress to complete a >TUC Tutors= Award= containing these units and others which cover tutor skills such as course development, course design, teaching a transnational course etc. This Award will be mapped to the Training and Development standards.
A major joint TUC and NOCN developmental event on >Assessment Strategies= was attended by tutors from all regions. This workshop reviewed current assessment practice and members were given an ongoing role to develop assessment techniques. Shorter versions of the workshop were run in each region. A tutor conference was also held, attended by over eighty education professionals, on new developments in the TUC Education Service, where papers on TUC Learning Services, accreditation and funding mechanisms were discussed. It is intended to make this an annual event.
During the two years of the development of the accreditation of the TUC Programme a considerable amount of work was undertaken which the TUC Education Service has now published in a manual, Passport to Progress. It contains the handbook for the management of accreditation along with the full text of TUC units of credit across the entire programme. The manual also contains an interactive CD ROM which shows the link between the units of credit and the National Standards for Workplace Representatives. It also provides a number of useful tools for tutors, including the facility for carrying out individual training needs analyses, training plans and assessment records. The manual provides a standard for quality assurance in TUC Education Service courses.
An Intranet was also launched, hosted by TUC Education On-Line, which links TUC Trades Union Studies Centres and Regional Education Offices. It is intended to enhance professional practice by sharing materials, improving communications and building on the national identity of the TUC Programme. It will also provide for opportunities to work on distance and open learning materials and eventually to create links with University for Industry (UfI).
The TUC Education Service has worked in support of the New Unionism project (see chapter 3) in the development of a Tutor Manual, Winning the Organised Workplace, focusing on the training of lay representatives in their role in structured organising campaigns. A tutor briefing was held which also considered ways in which the revitalised organising agenda can be incorporated into the core programme, and course development will continue to be informed by the project.
In addition, the TUC Education Service developed a TUC Diploma for the Organising Academy, consisting of 24 NOCN credits offered on a core and option basis.
The TUC Education Service continues to be involved in transnational work that reflects TUC priorities. The TUC Education Service for the South West worked in partnership with New Opportunities for Women (NOW), CISL (Italy) and INE-GSE (Greece) to produce an innovatory package for accrediting prior learning of women trade unionists and enabling them to claim recognition for the work they undertake as trade unionists.
The TUC Education Service in the Midlands is managing a national project under the Leonardo programme on analysing training needs and designing curricula for European Works Council members. Partners include CISL (Italy), DGB (Germany), ETUCO, FNV (Holland), STUC and the University of Northumbria.
The TUC Education Service in the South East is a partner in a project under the Leonardo programme focussing on the main streaming of education provision for women trades unionists. Other partners include CISL (Italy) and FNV (Netherlands).
The Regional TUCs= Consultative Committee meets following the two day General Council in October. The meeting provides the opportunity for the Chair and the General Secretary to outline the TUC=s priorities for the year ahead which form part of each region=s programme of work. Regional Officers and Chairs are, in turn, able to feed back regional issues and concerns. This format follows the recommendations of the General Council=s Regional Machinery Review Group report.
The General Council wish to record their appreciation of the work undertaken by members of TUC regional committees.
The Government, through its Government Office network and European Structural Fund Groups have invited the views of >employee interests= on a wide range of forums in liaison between the TUC Northern Regional SecretaryÕs office and the Director of the Government Regional Offices - North East, covering Northumberland, Tyne and Wear, Durham and Cleveland and the North West relating to Cumbria.
The Deputy Prime Minister on behalf of the Government decided that Cumbria, which is presently the responsibility of the TUC Northern Region, would form part of the North West RDA. Consequently, the TUC Regional Officers representing both the Northern and North West Regions are continuing to liaise with a view to securing the best practical representation possible within the new RDA structures. In practice the TUC Northern Regional Office will cover responsibilities in liaison with the Government Office - North East, and the TUC North West will liaise with their respective office regarding Cumbria.
The Government through its Department for Environment, Transport and the Regions extended invitations to all the regional interest groups and the general public to submit nominations for consideration. It is understood that nationwide over 2,000 nominations were received through this process. The Northern Regional TUC has argued strongly for tripartite representation within the framework of the RDA board membership which would reflect the long established Northern Development Company model, on which the TUC representing the trade unions, enjoys parity of representation with the employers (five members each). Local authority representation makes up the balance of an 18-member board.
The Government have urged a smaller board for the RDA of around 12 members. Therefore, the TUC is presently negotiating to retain the same formula of representation whilst recognising that the overall level of representation will be reduced. This organisation will be predominantly Local Authority led with 70 per cent of the membership derived from county and district councils across the region. The remaining 30 per cent - a total of 16 seats - will be made up of 3 seats each for the trade unions and employers with 10 allocated to other >regional stakeholders= (education, voluntary sector etc.)
This region saw the launch of the country=s first regional chamber by John Prescott, Deputy Prime Minister, on 28 March 1998 . In October 1997, Richard Caborn, Minister for the Regions, addressed our Regional Council on the subject of regional devolution and its importance to the trade union movement. We have extremely good working relations with all the social partners involved in regional devolution and are able to build upon the close links forged over the past ten years.
We held an extremely successful and positive New Deal Conference, on 1 December 1997, and now have representatives on each of the New Deal Units of Delivery within the region. We continue to do a great deal of supportive work and we held a Negotiating the New Deal conference in July 1998.
In conjunction with the TECs, we secured ,5 million of European funding to help the region adapt to the impact of new and emerging technologies, which will continue to impact upon a number of areas of TUC work within the region.
We organised a three day SUNREG conference in York at the end of January 1998, which included an open seminar on The Role of Trade Union/Academic Partnerships. SUNREG is a research programme which has been funded by the European Union to explore issues surrounding technological change in the workplace. The Yorkshire and Humberside TUC has been involved with this project since its inauguration in 1996 to the final conference in Brussels at the end of April 1998.
We continue our involvement with transport matters within the region and, with Paul Salveson from the Train Research and Information Network, presented a comprehensive response to the Government=s proposed Integrated Transport Policy Document. Transport problems continue to cause difficulties for the region and, to complement this response, we produced a report compiled by one of our retired members on concessionary fares and travel policies.
Our involvement with the Workfret project continues, looking at the development of efficient freight transport systems whilst taking into account the interests and requirements of the people who operate them. A conference was held in Sheffield in January 1998 and a seminar looking at the regional challenge was held in Leeds in April 1998.
In addition to specific regional issues, we have provided continual support and publicity for key TUC initiatives and continue to represent the TUC in a wide and growing variety of organisations. We maintain close links with the Government Office for Yorkshire and the Humber and are also working with the Northern Coordinator of the Millennium Debate of the Age.
We are working closely with Leeds Trades Union Council to sponsor a regional Respect event and continue to offer support to trades union councils throughout the region. In 1997 we were able to give development grants to support activities ranging from a Health at Work conference to a demonstration against unemployment, held in Luxembourg.
A successful regional Conference was organised in the autumn with Bill Connor, General Council, on behalf of the New Unionism Task Group and Ron Blackwell from the AFL-CIO as the keynote speakers. This was followed by a short series of local seminars which were opened by Organising Academy trainees but again focused on participants= own experiences. We have established, during the year, an Organising Network of union officers in the region to help circulate information and to promote the objectives of the New Unionism project.
We have linked our approach to new unionism with our discussion of the development of the Government=s approach to Fairness at Work. We were pleased to welcome the Trade and Industry Minister, Ian McCartney, to become the first Government Minister to address our Regional Council last October. Fairness at work and the new unionism were also key features of a formal presentation that we made to the full North West Group of Labour MPs in the House of Commons, and that liaison has continued to develop.
NW TUC Officers have been active in promoting trade union involvement in the emerging regional agenda. We have appointed and supported representatives to a wide variety of public bodies including Monitoring Committees for European Programmes, New Deal local steering groups and other partnerships. We have been active in the preparations for the establishment of the North West Regional Chamber and in the work to help set up the Regional Development Agency (RDA). As part of this work we held a seminar on Jobs, Social Cohesion and EMU with Assistant General Secretary, David Lea, and Arlene McCarthy MEP as the principal speakers. We also organised a well attended regional briefing on the New Deal and have undertaken a series of events, at unions= request, on the New Deal.
Through our participation in the work of the NW Human Resource Development Group we are seeking to ensure that the importance of the development of high skills and lifelong learning are fully recognised in the new RDA=s work programme. The Bargaining for Skills project in the North West continues to undertake valuable work. We are also working with TECS and other partners to develop pilot projects on Individual Learning Accounts and the University for Industry. With the project we held an impressive event at Manchester Airport in November, that brought together representatives of unions, TECs, employers and others to discuss the importance of lifelong learning. Employment Minister, Dr Kim Howells, and the Deputy General Secretary, Brendan Barber, were the main speakers. We also contributed to the UK Presidency event on Lifelong Learning that was held in Manchester, and have organised a number of consultations to consider in detail The Learning Age. A Renaissance for a New Britain, the DfEE Green Paper on the learning age.
With the 50th Anniversary celebrations as a backcloth, the Health Service Minister, Alan Milburn, was the main contributor to a day-long conference organised for mainly health service union representatives, on the Government=s Health Service White Paper. The emphasis in the White Paper on staff involvement was keenly discussed. This event was part of a year-long programme of activity organised with the health service unions.
We have an active Women=s Committee, and during the year we contributed to the success of the Women and Pensions Week with a regional launch that figured two of the regions most prominent new Women Members of Parliament, Hazel Blears and Beverly Hughes. We were also concerned with bullying and harassment at work and circulated a range of materials to help unions respond to these issues. During International Women=s Week, the region saw the Women Deserve Better tour. A mobile exhibition vehicle, which contained a full range of TUC and union information for women workers, visited various locations in the region and officers and activists staffed the exhibition and were available to offer advice and information to many hundreds of women in the North West.
We have supported the work with the Health and Safety Executive on the Good Health is Good Business campaign and hosted seminars in Manchester and Chester in January and February. More recently the seminar on Stress held in the region as part of the national programme was massively oversubscribed and we intend to run a follow- up. Responding to the evident demand from unions, we have established a Health and Safety Network. The Network was launched at a conference in Manchester at which we had to limit the attendance to 150, we now have a list of over 200 officers and safety reps in the Network, and with assistance from the Trades Union Studies Unit at the Manchester College of Art and Technology will circulate a bulletin and organise a series of topic-based events during the coming year.
TUC Midlands Regional Council began 1998 by re-organising its meeting procedures. We held a major Annual Conference in February which will be supported by two Regional Council meetings during the year. Our long-standing Regional Council Chair, Sid Platt, left his work in the trade union movement and is now using his experience as the newly appointed Director of the West Midlands Local Government Association.
TUC Midlands Region has continued to develop social partnerships within the region, being an active partner in economic development initiatives including West Midlands First and East Midlands Economic Development Forum. We have become involved in planning for a Territorial Employment Pact and as partners for strategic development projects including initiatives to promote work in engineering and science to women. With partners, we have responded to government consultations and we continue to be involved in joint planning for the establishment of Regional Development Agencies and for Regional Chambers.
A pre-budget briefing held in Birmingham ensured that union representatives and officers were assisted to present the effects of the Budget for members both in their workplace and by improving the quality and amount of our media coverage.
A joint conference with Staffordshire University and Staffordshire Training and Enterprise Council led to involvement in additional joint training projects. We also provided speakers and workshop leaders to an international training conference with the University of Nottingham and other academic and industrial partners.
The Women=s Committee organised a Domestic Violence Forum in Derby where Women=s Aid, solicitors, police officers and politicians made contributions. We met trade union women who were not previously in active contact and some unions have used the experience to make practical progress in this sensitive area.
The Midlands region has supported national priority work and has become actively involved in work on New Deal strategy committees to work for quality. We organised TUC seminars on Good Health is Shared Business, on stress and on Europe.
The regional New Unionism conference was well attended and has led to growing liaison between the Regional office staff, officers working with the TUC New Unionism Organising Academy, and union recruiters to explore opportunities for recruitment and for presenting a positive media profile for unions in the Midlands.
Building on the success of the Respect Festivals in 1996 and 1997, TUC Midlands Region is supporting three events in the Midlands this year. The HealthFest in Nottingham in July enabled us to highlight that black workers, from doctors to ancillary staff, have given 50 years of dedicated service to the NHS. The TGWU Family day in Birmingham gave us the opportunity to further promote the Respect message at a relaxed family social event. The soon to be held OctoFest 98, which is being run by Youth Agencies in Worcester, means we shall be taking Respect to the youth of the Midlands.
The South West TUC has had a very successful year. The profile of the TUC has risen considerably across the region, largely due to a range of conferences and events that have generated considerable publicity and support. Issues covered include, New Unionism, Defence Diversification, Lifelong Learning, Europe, Respect not Racism and the role of women in the workplace. The Regional TUC has continued to support Respect Festivals in Bristol and Plymouth and has helped enliven the Tolpuddle Rally (see chapter 15).
New Unionism and the need to support unions in their recruitment and membership retention strategies have been at the forefront of South West TUC business. New materials have been produced including a regular newsletter. We are getting our message across to a wider range of organisations than ever before. The main role of the Regional TUC in this regard is to add value to the work of individual unions. To reach out to new areas and organisations and to build relationships with new partners.
Union learning initiatives have been pursued with vigour and a wide range of exciting ideas have been taken up building upon the successful work of the South West Bargaining for Skills Project. The potential for the trade union movement in this work is huge but is restricted by the limited capacity of the Regional TUC and individual unions to respond.
Using Bargaining for Skills, we have undertaken an extensive audit of trade union membership in all organisations employing more than 100 people. Not only has this provided a powerful mailing list but has also helped identify target companies for recruitment.
The Government=s policies towards the devolution of powers to the regions is continuing to have significant impact in the South West. Regional networks are being formed or boundaries are being adjusted to fit with the Government Region. The South West Regional Chamber has been established and contains a strong TUC presence. The RDA will soon be operating with the keen support of the South West TUC and the relationship with the Government Office of the South West is now much stronger.
The South West TUC has been able to take up invitations to join the various Regional European Monitoring Committees and Regeneration Panels. The Regional Executive believes that a key issue for the TUC is to develop effective strategies to develop and promote our policies within these increasingly powerful regional bodies.
The South West TUC Regional Council enjoys strong support from unions and our meetings are always very well attended with lively and constructive debates on the key campaigning issues facing trade unionists.
In common with the other Regional Councils the Southern and Eastern Regional Council have been largely pre-occupied with the new opportunities offered by changing government policy toward regional regeneration and development. In particular, and in partnership with other key regional stakeholders, we have been actively involved in laying the ground for the introduction of Regional Development Agencies in London, the South East and Eastern Regions. This has involved discussions with Regional Government offices and other regional partners on a range of issues including regional competitiveness, a regional skills strategy and outline economic strategies.
In addition to the RDA partnerships SERTUC representatives are playing an important role in other regional regeneration initiatives. We have representation on the Objective 2 Committees in Kent and London, the Objective 5b Committee in East Anglia, Objective 3 and 4 Committees in London, Eastern and the South East Regions.
SERTUC is also playing a role in the establishment of Regional Chambers in the South East and Eastern regions.
The situation in London, with the proposed elected Assembly and Mayor, provides real opportunities for the trade union movement to be involved in regional government, not just through the London Development Agency but also for workers representatives to be involved in the Transport for London and the Fire and Emergency Services agencies to be established as part of the Greater London Authority.
SERTUC has long supported the reintroduction of an elected Authority for London and campaigned strongly for a >Yes= vote in the London Referendum. We organised, with other trade union organisations in London, a >Democracy Day= festival and rally just a few days before the referendum. The festival attracted over 25,000 people to Finsbury Park on Sunday 3 May.
Because the statutory RDA for London will not be established until after the Greater London area election, a wide range of partners have got together in a London Development Partnership. The LDP has a board modelled on the proposed RDAs in other regions and includes representation from the Regional TUC.
Equalities continue to form an important component in the SERTUC work programme. Our Women=s Rights Committee launched an >Equality Quilt= as part of their contribution towards International Women=s Day.
SERTUC has continued to support the Stephen Lawrence Family Campaign during the Inquiry. Along with them and the TUC Equal Rights Department a trade union solidarity day was organised on 16 June at the Inquiry. Hundreds of trade unionists turned up with their banners to show support (see also chapter 6).
The 3 May festival included a >Respect= stage and we used the occasion not just to encourage black Londoners to vote, but also to celebrate our multicultural society.
We remain involved in the Crossborder Interregional Trades Union Committee and EURES project. Through these structures we are examining the possibilities for interregional social dialogue and meetings have been held in Eastbourne, Menen and London on this issue.
Finally, SERTUC was involved in organising a dozen or so seminars and conferences on subjects such as EMU, Employment Law, Transport in the Regions and Safety in Construction and key speakers at these events included Trade and Industry Minister, Ian McCartney; Transport Minister, Gavin Strang; Pauline Green MEP, plus trade union speakers - John Monks, Brendan Barber, John Edmonds and Jimmy Knapp.
It has been a year of change and excitement in Wales where the referendum vote in favour of setting up a National Assembly ensured that the year will become remembered as a watershed, when the people of Wales took up the challenge, the opportunity and the responsibility for delivering a better Wales into the new millennium.
On 18 September 1998 the people of Wales voted, albeit by a narrow majority, in favour of the GovernmentÕs proposals for devolving power from the Welsh Office to an elected National Assembly for Wales. Overturning the comprehensive rejection of devolution in 1979, Wales responded to the opportunity provided by the new Labour Government and trade unions in Wales saw the culmination of a campaign which had been inaugurated with the setting up of the Wales TUC 25 years earlier.
The Wales TUC was closely involved with the referendum campaign, producing a range of campaigning material and ensuring that the arguments in favour of a National Assembly were clearly set out and made available.
Because the Welsh Assembly and the campaign to see it established was not just about the ideals of democracy and accountability, important as such ideals are. It was about jobs and public services. It was about improving our day-to-day quality of life. It was about the real >bread and butter= issues that brought most of us into the trade union movement in the first place.
It was and still is about the Welsh Assembly taking control of the ,7.5 billion budget for public services in Wales, so enabling this money to be spent in accordance with the needs and priorities of our communities.
It was and is about the Welsh Assembly providing the vehicle through which education and training and economic development and industrial policies can be better integrated and made to complement one another in order to achieve real added value.
And its about the Welsh Assembly giving a new focus for the economic partnerships of public and private sector, of management and unions, which will be essential for our future success and on which the strong regional economies of Europe are already firmly founded.
We have also been active across a wide range of issues and with the new Government keen to review most areas of public policy in Wales we have been involved in responding to consultation documents across a wide range of subjects.
The Wales TUC has produced policy papers and responded to consultations on Sex Equality in the Workplace, Occupational Health and Safety, Education and Training, Europe and the Reform of the Structural Funds, Transport Infrastructure and Integration, The Future of Broadcasting, Jobs and the Environment, Co-operative Development and the Social Economy, Better Value in Welsh Local Government, and Delivering the National Health Service in Wales.
Of particular importance however, as far as the future success of Wales is concerned, is the Government=s commitment to determining an agreed economic strategy for Wales and the consultation exercise which it has undertaken as a consequence.
Launched in October, the consultation document represented the first attempt by Government for over twenty years to establish an agreed strategy for developing and strengthening the Welsh economy. We welcomed the opportunity to respond and participate in the development of such a strategy, the formulation of which has been a key priority for the Wales TUC throughout the 1980's and 1990's.
We have long held the position that despite some apparent successes, the economy of Wales is not benefiting all regions of Wales equally. We have consistently pointed out that even taking into account the growth of the last few years, large areas of Wales have been left behind and are suffering chronic underemployment and deep seated poverty.
It is encouraging therefore to see that the Government now understands the scale of the problem and is committed to building a solution as quickly as possible. It is equally encouraging to see that the Welsh Office considers it a priority to abandon Wales= image as a low-waged producer and to work with us in earning a new reputation for Wales as an economy based on high-skills and high productivity.
There is little doubt that the National Assembly will be significantly judged by the extent to which it achieves improvements within the Welsh economy. The development of an economic strategy which commands widespread support and the establishment of an effective delivery mechanism are key, both for the future wellbeing of Wales and to the assessments of the Assembly which will be made into the new millennium.
The Trades Union Councils= Joint Consultative Committee (TUCJCC) have met four times in the year to: monitor the work of county associations and trades union councils in England and Wales; support affiliations; arrange for the annual conference; and oversee the responses to conference decisions.
The 73rd annual Trades Union Councils= Conference debated motions covering a range of economic, social, employment and organisational issues. The Conference heard addresses on Trade Union Councils and Trade Union Links, Revitalising the Regions, the New Unionism project and the NHS at 50. Trades Union Councils and County Associations nominated 114 delegates, of which 14 per cent were women Ð a fall of eight per cent on 1997.
The Trade Union Councils= Programme of Work for 1998-99, was considerably revised from previous years with the range of activities directed to carry forward two of the key issues facing the trade union movement of recruitment and representation. The Programme was approved by the General Council. The General Council agreed to maintain a grant to a maximum of ,20,000 from the Development Fund to support those activities undertaken to implement the Programme of Work. In 1997, 68 grants were distributed to trades union councils and county associations.
The Committee have held discussions with trade union officers nominated by their unions to act as a liaison point on trades union council matters - particularly affiliations to councils.
During the year the General Council approved the revision of some of the Model Rules governing trades union councils, county associations and the annual conference. The main change was an addendum to the Rules to take account of the consequent impact for the structure and functioning of trades union councils in Wales of the reorganisation of local government in Wales with the introduction of 22 unitary authorities. Following representations from the Midlands and Southern and Eastern Regional Councils the General Council agreed to allow these two Regions to maintain two seats on the TUCJCC, which it had been intended in due course should have be reduced to one following the reorganisation of the TUC=s regional structure in 1994. The General Council, however, limited the ex-officio membership by the TUCJCC members of Regional Council executives to one.
The national network of TUC Centres for the Unemployed, despite limited resources, has continued to provide a vital and positive support service to thousands of people. They provide welfare and benefit advice, debt counselling and legal advice to the unemployed. Centres also promote trade union membership; run training and education courses; and represent the unemployed, disabled and elderly at tribunals obtaining benefits and compensation for individuals, with and without jobs, and their families. Centres are also frequently involved in supporting unions and companies in providing counselling to workers about to face redundancy. Many centres are now increasingly involved in a range of activities and institutions - both public and private - concerned with the generation of employment not just the amelioration of the impact of unemployment on individuals.
While one or two centres have closed during the year others have opened in areas where previously there had been no assistance for workers without jobs.
The National Consultative Meetings of Regional Representatives continue to be held at Congress House and the fourteenth annual conference, which took place in October 1997, was addressed by Andrew Smith, the minister steering the Welfare to Work initiative. Workshops were organised on incapacity benefit, Welfare to Work, JSA and centre funding. This year the annual one week residential course for centres has been deferred and instead a three-day workshop is to be arranged for October 1998 to produce a policy statement on the future direction of centres for debate at the 1998 Annual Conference in late October.
Funding for UWCs remains tight with most funds coming from local authoritiesÕ discretionary grants for voluntary organisations, for which centres are extremely appreciative. With continued budget constraints local authorities are being more selective about which organisations receive grants and tie in grants to supporting individual projects rather than as block grants. Employed trade union members continue to be the second major source of funding with One Fund For All schemes (OFFA) predominantly provided the main channel for support. OFFA schemes raise an estimated ,400,000 each year. The TUC liaison group of OFFA administrators continues to meet twice a year to discuss developments and to regulate OFFA schemes. Other sources of funds include European Union grants, UK Government urban aid programmes, support from local Colleges of Further Education for specific training initiatives and local fund raising activities.
Want to hear about our latest news and blogs?
Sign up now to get it straight to your inbox