Chapter 15: TUC organisation

Issue date
25 Sep 1998

Chapter 15 - TUC organisation

Contents

15.1 Introduction

This chapter reports on the TUC=s links with affiliates; the awards made to lay members in recognition of their contribution to the trade union movement; the way in which the General Council have conducted their business during the past year and the services provided for trade unionists through the Union Energy and Unionlaw schemes. It also reports on the TUC=s finances, on Congress House and Congress Centre and on the TUC=s information and library services. The work to promote and improve the historic Tolpuddle site is also reported in this chapter.

15.2 Affiliations and amalgamations

During the past Congress year the General Council have accepted into TUC affiliation the Guinness Staff Association, the Abbey National Staff Association (ANSA) and the Union for Bradford and Bingley Staff (UBBS). In October 1997 the National Association of Licensed House Managers transferred their engagements to the Transport and General Workers= Union and in June the Communication Managers Association transferred their engagements to Manufacturing Science Finance.

15.3 Congress Awards

The General Council have selected, from the nominations received from unions, the following trade unionists to receive the 1998 Congress Awards. The awards will be presented at Congress.

  • The Men=s Gold Badge is to be awarded to Thomas Jones, GMB.

  • The Congress Award for Youth is to be awarded to Katrina Murray, UNISON.

  • The General Council agreed to award the Women=s Gold Badge to Christine Axe of the Transport and General Workers Union. It is with regret that they have to report that they have subsequently been informed of the death of Ms Axe and the badge will therefore be received by the union on her behalf.

15.4 General Council

The General Council have met on eight occasions during the past Congress year. At their first meeting, immediately following Congress in Brighton, they elected John Edmonds as Chair. Mr Edmonds will preside at Congress. The General Council also appointed George Brumwell and Bill Connor to fill the two vacancies on the Executive Committee.

A special residential meeting of the General Council was held on 21-22 October in Bournemouth. As well as conducting normal business, the meeting reviewed the new arrangements for Congress introduced last year and the comments made by delegates through the questionnaires. As a result a number of administrative changes will be made at this year=s Congress. The meeting also reviewed the key priority issues for the coming Congress year: - full employment and the New Deal; the minimum wage; employee rights; and the European dimension. Lord McCarthy, who had been present at the previous year=s residential meeting also assisted the General Council in assessing the achievements of the past Congress year. There was also wide ranging discussion of the work on the New Unionism Project and the Organising Academy (see chapter 3). The 1997 Congress carried a resolution (no. 6) calling for a review of the structure and role of the trade union movement and much of this meeting was devoted to a wide ranging discussion on the prospects for trade unionism and key relationships - with government, employers and with members - over the next ten years. The meeting concluded that, in addition to existing priority work, the TUC should also seek to coordinate trade union activities in the areas of education and training; and pension provision (see appendix 1 and chapter 8 respectively). The wider issue of the role of trade unions in society today also needed to be considered further. Mo Mowlam, the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, also addressed an informal session of the residential meeting.

A special meeting of the General Council was held on 20 April to receive a report on discussions which had taken place with the CBI and the Government on the Fairness at Work White Paper (see chapter 1). Following publication of the White Paper, a further special meeting was held on 10 June, at which the General Council agreed an assessment of the White Paper for circulation to delegates attending the conference of unions which was held at Congress House on 24 June ( see also chapter 1).

15.5 Specialist unions

A meeting of those unions with fewer than 100,000 members - most of whom are not represented on the General Council - was held at the TUC National Education Centre in November. Representatives of these smaller, or specialist unions, considered further their role in the TUC decision-making machinery, an issue also referred to in resolution six carried at the 1997 Congress, and also discussed issues facing the trade union movement over the next decade. A report of the meeting was given to the Executive Committee in December, when it was agreed that in order to improve liaison with these unions the minutes and documents for the TUC Executive Committee and General Council should be made available to these unions, on request. Unions were notified of this arrangement through the TUC MAIL and a number have taken advantage of the offer.

In February, in considering these issues further, the General Council agreed to invite the General Secretaries of those unions not represented on the General Council to attend their June meeting, as observers for the business part of the meeting, and as full participants in a subsequent discussion on issues of immediate importance to the trade union movement. In light of this experience it was intended that the General Council would again review liaison with the specialist or smaller unions. In the event the conference on the White Paper, Fairness at Work was arranged for the date of the June General Council and it will be necessary therefore to return these issues again after Congress.

15.6 Lead responsibilities

The lead responsibilities for the 1997-1998 Congress Year were as follows:

General

Overall responsibility as lead spokesperson for the TUC The General Secretary

Senior responsibility throughout year of office The President, John Edmunds

Specific areas of responsibility

  • Economic Affairs - Full employment Rodney Bickerstaffe

  • Employment law, representation at work, minimum standards Bill Morris

  • Stakeholding Roger Lyons

  • Europe Monitoring Group John Edmunds

  • International Ken jackson

  • Women Rita Donaghy

  • Race Relations Bob Purkiss

  • Disability Rita Donaghy

  • Gay & Lesbian Rights Donna Covey

  • Education & Training Tony Dubbins

  • Pensions Tony Young

  • New Unionism Project Tony Burke

  • Health & Safety Anne Gibson

  • Learning Services Jimmy Knapp

  • Trade Union Education Jimmy Knapp

  • Transport Bill Morris

  • TUC Regions Bill Morris

  • Trades Union Councils Rita Donaghy

  • Health Services Hector MacKenzie

  • Local Government Doug McAvoy

  • Young People Anne Gibson

  • Energy Roger Lyons

  • Construction George Brumwell

15.7 Inter-union relations

During the year the TUC has continued its efforts to conciliate in disputes between unions which have been reported by unions, or which have come to the notice of the TUC.

The TUC conciliation meetings normally follow a national level meeting between disputing unions where an agreed resolution of the issue(s) in dispute could not be reached (a national level meeting between disputing unions is a requirement of the TUC Disputes Procedures). Conciliation between affiliated trade unions is carried out under the chairmanship of Brendan Barber, Deputy General Secretary, or Brian Ward, Union Relations Officer.

Conciliation meetings, as well as dealing with an immediate issue, can also help to identify areas of difficulty and potential difficulty between unions where specific inter-union procedures for the avoidance and settlement of disputes and spheres of

influence agreements would be advantageous. Where it becomes apparent that such procedures and agreements would be of advantage then the conciliation discussions are developed in this direction.

During the year 30 disputes were reported to the TUC under the disputes machinery of Congress. These were either dealt with by the unions after advice by the TUC on procedure or the issues in dispute or both, or resolved through TUC conciliation meetings. Only one such dispute has needed to be referred to a Disputes Committee for consideration. The Committee was still considering its decision when this Report went to press.

The Report of an Award by a Disputes Committee which could not be included in the 1997 General Council Report, because the hearing took place after the Report went to press, is set out in appendix 4.

The TUC has continued to seek to assist ASLEF, RMT and TSSA overcome problems in their relationships that have arisen as a consequence of the privatisation of the railways industry.

15.8 United Road Transport Union

In a letter of 11 January 1998, to the TUC, the General Secretary of the URTU explained that the Executive Committee of the union had decided to resign its membership of the TUC >forthwith=.

The circumstances of the decision of the URTU are that at their December 1997 meeting the TUC General Council considered the question of the refusal of the URTU to accept an Award of a Disputes Committee in a case concerning Ford Truck Fleet Drivers. The terms of the Award are set out in appendix 4.

Having heard the views of representatives of the URTU to a charge that by not accepting the terms of the Award, the union was in breach of TUC Rules the General Council issued, under Rule, a Directive to the URTU requiring the acceptance of the Award by 31 January 1998 or face suspension from the TUC. However, the URTU then resigned from the TUC as from 11 January.

The TUC General Secretary reported on the decision of the URTU to the TUC Executive Committee on 21 January and subsequently wrote to the URTU saying that the Executive Committee was very disappointed at the decision of the URTU. It had been hoped by the Executive Committee that, following the meeting between the General Council and URTU representatives, the union would have agreed to accept the Award of the Disputes Committee. The General Secretary said that it was hoped that the URTU would reconsider its position, accept the Award and return into affiliation of the TUC.

The General Secretary also said that he was saddened by the URTU=s decision to end its long-standing relationship with the TUC. This was especially so given the fact that, in the past, the URTU had been happy to support the TUC Disputes Principles and Procedures when its complaint had been upheld. The General Secretary added that the decision of the Disputes Committee had been the fair and lawful application of the TUC=s Rules which had not required the URTU to act in an unlawful manner.

15.9 Union Energy

Congress last year endorsed the setting up of Union Energy Ltd, as a separate company, to market cheaper gas, electricity and related energy products to union members.

Following preliminary discussions with 18 companies including all the generators, all but one of the regional electricity companies and British Gas, an invitation to tender went out to seven of the companies who had expressed a positive interest in bidding for the supply contract. Of these seven companies six submitted detailed bids. The other company decided not to proceed further. From the outset it was made clear to all the companies that Union Energy would only deal with those who could offer both gas and electricity supply or intended to do so.

In conjunction with Kleinwort Benson, acting as advisers, the invitation to tender asked each company whether they wished to bid for one or more franchise areas (it was envisaged that Scotland would be one franchise area, with England and Wales divided into an eastern and a western franchise); the length of term of the contract; the nature and price of tariffs and contracts to union members (the supply partner would have a direct contractual relationship with the union member and not the memberÕs union or Union Energy); details of commission payments to Union Energy; and key commercial and operational information relating to the proposed marketing approach, how meter reading, billing etc. would be handled, customer service information, arrangements for handling pre-payment and elderly customers, the general state of readiness in terms of IT systems to cope with handling both gas and electricity supply and liberalisation more generally.

A further round of discussions, including site visits, were held with the six companies returning the tender bid. As a result of these meetings and further written submissions clarifying aspects of each bid, it became evident that three companies were very keenly interested in entering into a partnership arrangement with Union Energy and each of these expressed a very strong preference for bidding to supply union members in all three franchise areas. The main reasons being that there would be less complexity for union members who might be faced with different tariff structures depending on where they lived; more effective coordination and higher standards of service could be achieved; and one supply partner would reduce costs to Union Energy which could then be reflected in tariffs to union members and commission payments to participating unions.

Three of the six companies met all of the basic selection criteria but given there were different roll out arrangements for competition in gas and electricity supply (as laid down by the regulators, Ofgas and Offer) the general degree of preparedness of a potential partner was regarded as critical. It was vital that not only should the supply partnerÕs computer systems be fully developed and capable of handling the recruitment and maintenance of substantial numbers of affinity group members, their systems should also be able to interface with those of other players in the market.

Taking all the factors into account the directors of Union Energy recommended to a sub-committee of the General Council that Scottish Power should be the sole supply partner for a period of five years. This was endorsed by General Council at the end of October.

The next stage involved detailed discussions between lawyers for Union Energy and Scottish Power to draw up a Heads of Terms and Commercial Agreement. At the same time a Participation Agreement was prepared for those affiliated unions who wanted to sign up to the scheme which committed them to giving Union Energy access to membership lists for marketing purposes. By mid-December all the necessary legal preliminaries were completed and the process of signing up affiliated unions began.

The main terms of the deal with Scottish Power were as follows: union members would receive up to 20 per cent saving on gas and up to ten per cent saving on electricity depending on the amount used, payment method and geographical location. In addition union members benefited from a standing charge waiver for gas in December and January. A key part of the offer was the price guarantee negotiated with Scottish Power, that over the five year period the unit price of gas and electricity would always be within the cheapest five in any part of the country and within five per cent of the lowest price on offer. The offer to members also included payment protection insurance in the event that the member lost their job through redundancy.

Each affiliated union that participates in the scheme receives a commission payment from Union Energy for each of its members that signs up and for each year the members remain in the scheme.

Union Energy monitors the performance of Scottish Power against the guaranteed standards required by the utilities regulators, as well against additional standards imposed by the commercial contract with UEL. Scottish Power have agreed to provide management information as to the number of customers and other relevant information, and to allow an independent audit at their premises and at their expense, at least once a year. Compensation will be paid to any customers where the guaranteed standards required by the regulator have not been met.

Union Energy agreed with Scottish Power that there would be day-to-day contact on issues relevant to these arrangements and that all decisions concerning marketing, pricing and terms of supply would be made after full consultation with UEL.

In the six months from December, when the process of signing-up affiliated union to the scheme began, 45 unions representing some 5.1 million members have signed Participation Agreements to promote the scheme. A considerable amount of marketing activity has already begun with those unions including advertising in union journals, attendance at conferences and specialist group meetings, the distribution of activist packs and attendance at workplace and branch meetings.

At this stage Union Energy can only promote gas supply and all regions of Great Britain have now been opened up to gas competition. It is expected that domestic electricity supply competition will start in September and plans are underway to offer members a dual fuel arrangement and discounted electricity prices. Further announcements will be made around the time of Congress.

15.10 Unionlaw

The TUC has continued to run the Unionlaw scheme. Unionlaw, which was set up by the TUC and the Law Society, offers members of participating unions free initial diagnostic advice from scheme solicitors on domestic legal issues, for example, conveyancing. The TUC supplies unions with a list of participating solicitors for each region. The majority of affiliated unions are members of Unionlaw, which is free.

The Law Society has recently indicated to the TUC that it no longer wishes to be involved in Unionlaw as the administrative expense to them outweighs the benefit. The TUC is currently in discussion with a specialist law firm about the possibility of re-launching the scheme on a joint basis. Unions will be consulted about this as soon as a definite proposal can be made. In the meantime the TUC will continue to operate Unionlaw in its current format, with the consent of the Law Society.

15.11 TUC finances

In accounting terms the TUC=s financial position continues to report a positive balance, though with a much smaller surplus than in 1996. Overall union membership continued to fall but at a significantly reduced rate than in the recent past. That means there will be continued pressure on TUC finances and steps have been taken to ensure that much of the day-to-day expenditure is tightly controlled. It will also mean that some of the capital projects for improving the fabric and infrastructure of Congress House may have to be deferred until adequate resources are available.

Affiliation fee rate

As agreed at the 1995 Congress, the TUC=s affiliation fee continues to be based on a formula using the weighted average of the main contribution rate in each affiliated union. Based on information supplied by affiliates at 30 September each year, a weighted average is calculated of all weekly contribution rates as at 1 January in the following year. The weighted average contribution rate for 1998, which this calculation produced was 173 pence and applying the formula for setting the TUC fee at 95 per cent of the weighted average produced an affiliation fee rate of 164 pence.

Development Fund

The Fund was established to promote the General CouncilÕs new work and initiatives. As agreed at the 1995 Congress, 10 per cent of each yearÕs affiliation fee income is allocated to the Fund to finance such work; in 1997, this raised ,1.067m and in 1998 it is budgeted to raise ,1.108m. In 1997, the income was used to fund a number of projects, under the following general headings:

  • promoting employee rights, especially in the run up to the General Election

  • organising and recruitment, particularly of young workers, by understanding and learning from the experience of other national centres and by establishing an Organising Academy to train full-time organisers from affiliates

  • continued support for the Unite Against Racism campaign, particularly by organising a second Respect Festival, which was the largest British contribution to the European Year Against Racism

  • continuing the work already done on social partnership, national minimum wage, minimum standards and full employment

  • ensuring continued TUC involvement in pensions issues

  • working with the European Union and its institutions.

In December last year, the General Council agreed plans for 1998 to be funded by the Development Fund. These plans included work in the following key areas:

  • employee rights and fairness at work, including representations to the Government on the range and content of the Fairness At Work White Paper

  • developing work on full employment and the New Deal

  • taking part on the Low Pay Commission and campaigning for the National Minimum Wage

  • building campaigns on representation at work and the New Unionism project

  • extending work already done on Bargaining for Skills and Life-Long Learning to link with Government plans for the creation of a ALearning Society@

Statement of Accounts 1997

The Annual Statement of Accounts and Balance Sheet as at 31 December 1997 are set out in appendix 3.

The revised format of the accounts, which was adopted in 1995, has been retained for 1997 with the aim of showing the TUC=s overall financial performance at a glance.

Overall, the TUC had a surplus in 1997 of ,70,000 against a surplus in 1996 of ,293,000. However, while the Development Fund showed a surplus of ,336,000 during the year, the Administration Fund (which covers day-to-day office running expenses and staff costs) showed a deficit of ,306,000. This was due mainly to an increase in legal and professional fees, which were incurred in supporting a workload which has increased noticeably since the General Election. Other expenditure headings which increased during the course of the year were staff costs, communications and printing. In the case of staff costs, much of the increase related to the recruitment of staff to work on various Bargaining for Skills projects, whose costs were met in full by funding from the Training and Enterprise Councils involved in the projects.

Arising from the 1997 financial results, various initiatives have been taken to reduce the TUC=s running costs without affecting quality or performance. These include re-negotiating contracts for stationery, office supplies and photocopiers in order to achieve significant reductions in the costs of these items. In addition, internal budgetary controls have been strengthened.

The TUC=s net assets increased by just over ,250,000 during 1997, mainly because of an additional loan of ,1,000,000. This was used to finance the construction of a sophisticated conference suite at Congress House, which will increase external revenues from conferences and other similar functions.

15.12 Congress Centre - Congress House

Congress Centre continues as a well-established conference and events venue with a firm client base which includes affiliated unions, national associations, charitable bodies and commercial organisations.

The annual membership of the London Tourist and Convention Bureau, with an entry in their conference directory and along with other marketing, continues to provide new business enquires. Organisations using the centre during the year included Waterstones, the Arcadia Group, The Macular Disease Society, The Foyer Federation and Civil Service Benevolent Fund.

At the beginning of the year the Invision conference suite was opened on the second floor south of Congress House. The facilities in the suite include video-conferencing, state-of-the-art audio visual equipment controlled by a touch panel system, air conditioning and remote control lighting and blinds.

Marketing undertaken to launch the new facility included a new logo, brochure, telesales, participating in the Confex Exhibition at Earls Court as part of the London Convention Bureau stand and open evenings. Through these initiatives we have attracted a number of new clients.

This year the Council Chamber will be refurbished to up-date the appearance and provide more flexibility in the use of the room; improvements include new tables and chairs, carpeting and acoustic screens. The external appearance of Congress House was enhanced by the use of lighting, refurbishment of the Conference Hall entrance and canopy and a fibre-optic lighting pool. Other building projects carried out during the year included the provision of a roof safety system and the completion of a new glass roof to the Conference Hall.

15.13 Information Service and library collection

In the last year the TUC Information Service has continued to develop access to electronic information sources in order to carry out research for TUC staff and affiliated unions. The installation of a CD ROM network and subscriptions to web-based databases has also enabled many of these resources to be made available to staff for use on their own PCs.

A database of printed materials held in Congress House is also now available for staff to search from their desktop. Searching the database using subject terms retrieves catalogue records of all items such as books, reports and journals purchased by the Information Service, giving information on who has the item.

Staff training run by the Information Service now includes web searching, publishing documents on to the TUC web site, searching CD ROMs and on-line databases, using the electronic >library= catalogue and searching European information sources.

The TUC web site, which is managed by the Information Service, has recently been re-designed with a new home page and graphics. Facilities on the site (www.tuc.org.uk) include a site map, a Awhat=s new@ page showing the most recently-published items and a mailing list tool which enables users to register and receive E-mail when new documents are published. Most TUC policy staff have now been trained to publish their own documents into the AVirtual Building@ on the web site and new material is added most days.

Developments planned for 1998-99 include the release to TUC staff of the first phase of the TUC intranet, providing staff information such as a contacts directory, training information, staff news and staff handbook.

Library collection

The TUC Library Collection at the University of North London are now well established, and the TUC Librarian, Christine Coates, remains there on secondment in order to develop services at the new site. Over 600 visitors were received during the year.

Further archive deposits have been received by the Collection and the British Library has provided grant aid to help conserve and catalogue these materials. The floor area reserved for the Collection has grown to accommodate this expansion. The University=s TUC Library Development Group is hoping to attract further funding to develop the services, including Internet access to the catalogue and the creation of a purpose-built archives centre.

The University continues to extend its links with the trade union movement, and the Centre for Trade Union Studies, offering a range of training and higher education courses for trade unionists, transferred there at the end of 1997.

15.14 Tolpuddle Martyrs= Cottages

In December, the General Council agreed a number of proposals to improve the Tolpuddle Martyrs= Cottages site near Dorchester, including working with the local district council, West Dorset, to help develop the area for a possible trade union celebration of the Millennium. Among the proposals which were endorsed were the refurbishment of the museum at the cottages site to improve the interpretation of the Martyrs= story, especially giving it a wider appeal to attract young people; to consider commissioning a public sculpture for the site; and to explore ways of reinvigorating the Annual Rally. At the same time as the General Council approved these proposals, the West Dorset District Council put forward their own proposals for a multi-million pound refurbishment of the Shire Hall in Dorchester, which contains the Court House where the Martyrs were tried and sentenced. In view of the complementary nature of this development with Tolpuddle, the District Council set up a charitable trust with the TUC to promote awareness of the events of 1834. The General Secretary, along with former General Council member Lord Brooke, act as the TUC trustees.

A design company specialising in museum interpretation has been appointed and work is underway to produce appropriate interpretation concepts, which will be displayed at the museum for comment. Discussions have taken place with the District Council about some possible improvements to the museum to ensure that it complies with statutory regulations. The cost of the improvements to the museum and the site more generally will be around ,80,000, and it is hoped to attract financial support from the trade union movement for this work. It is planned to have completed the refurbishment by the Spring of next year.