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General Council Report 2019

TUC Congress 2019
Report type
Research and reports
Issue date
TUC Administration
TUC Administration
TUC Administration

6.1 Developing the TUC

The TUC is adapting to meet external challenges by investing in its people, building and systems. Our finances are more secure, and we’re working with our staff team to make sure the TUC is a great place to work. That helps us deliver everything we do. 

Our people, learning and development

Our people are at the heart of everything we do. We were pleased to be reaccredited as an Investor in People during 2019, reflecting our high standards of people management.

During the year, we trained people in digital, project management, and line management skills and introduced a new wellbeing programme. We reviewed and improved our internal communications and introduced new measures to attract more BME applicants when we advertise jobs.

Our policy departments underwent a major restructure following the departure of head of the European Union and international department, Owen Tudor, to become deputy general secretary of the ITUC. Much of our international work was merged into a new department, Rights, International, Social and Economic, or RISE. Our Brexit project moved to the Equality and Strategy Department, enabling us to focus on it as a key strategic project. We continue to look carefully at vacancies as they arise, with a number of posts being reshaped to ensure they best meet the demands of the TUC. In January 2019, Head of Campaigns and Communications Antonia Bance went on maternity leave and was covered by Alex Rossiter.

TUC digital comms experts Scott Gilfillan and Riz Hussain discuss how unions can make the most of Facebook and Twitter in a training webinar
TUC digital comms experts Scott Gilfillan and Riz Hussain discuss how unions can make the most of Facebook and Twitter in a training webinar

Congress House improvements

We launched The Rookery – our refurbished office space at Congress House – in a difficult commercial climate. Despite this, most of the space is now let or under offer and our rental income is starting to rise. This follows our strategy to make the best possible use of Congress House.

We’ve also launched a print and despatch service including to affiliates under the banner Print & Post @ The Rookery.

Congress Centre – a valued venue

The TUC and our affiliates have enjoyed the wide range of meeting, conference and event facilities hosted by the Congress Centre. Demand for these facilities is increasing and 2018 was a successful year. We delivered events from conferences to fashion shows and remain a desirable film and TV location. We are working through a programme to update toilet facilities and are planning to upgrade our AV facilities in Congress Hall. We continue to look for new ways to market effectively and maximise value from the facilities.

IT strategy and information services

We’re towards the end of a programme to upgrade our IT hardware and we made further progress towards moving to a new suite of tools to help us work cross-departmentally to deliver our objectives. As we go, we’ve improved our file management and data protection compliance. We are putting an improved contact management system in place, which will help us engage better with the people we contact.

The information line supported more than 6,100 public enquiries in 2018, of which 70 per cent were from people who wanted to know how to join a trade union. This was an increase of 30 per cent more enquiries and a welcome 25 per cent more people being supported to join a union.

6.2 Affiliations and mergers

There were no new affiliations to the TUC or mergers of TUC affiliates in 2018–19.

6.3 Congress awards 

The winners of this year’s Congress awards for lay representatives are as follows:

Congress Award for Youth
Christina Di Stefano

Health and Safety Representative Award
Jenny Cooper
National Education Union

Learning Representative Award
Susan Mann

Organising Representative Award
Lyn Marie O’Hara

Women’s Gold Badge
Pat Heron

6.4 Congress

The 2018 Congress was held in Manchester. The Congress carried 45 resolutions, 15 composites and 9 emergency resolutions. It also agreed statements on Brexit, collective bargaining and the TUC Campaign Plan 2018–19.

6.5 General Council 

At the time of writing, the General Council has held seven meetings during the Congress year. At the first meeting, held jointly with the outgoing General Council of the 2018 Congress, Mark Serwotka was elected as chair and he will preside at the 2019 Congress. It was agreed that the Executive Committee should be composed of the existing members, with the addition of Christine Payne.

In February 2019, Sally Hunt left the General Council and Executive Committee. In June 2019, Vicky Knight left the General Council. 
During the course of the year, key themes in the General Council’s work have been our campaigns on Brexit, tackling the far right and collective bargaining.

The General Council lead responsibilities for the year 2018–19 have been as follows:

Overall responsibility as lead spokesperson for the TUC
The general secretary, Frances O’Grady

Senior representative throughout the Congress year
The president, Mark Serwotka

Specific areas of responsibility
Disabled workers
Seán McGovern

Environment and sustainable development
Sue Ferns

Steve Turner

Health and safety
Liz Snape

International development
Gail Cartmail

International relations
Sally Hunt (until Feb 2019) 
Tim Roache (since Apr 2019)

Learning and skills
Mary Bousted

Lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender rights
Maria Exall

Public services
Dave Prentis

Race equality
Gloria Mills

Trade union councils
Matt Wrack

Vicky Knight (until Jun 2019) 
Sue Ferns (subsequently)

Young workers
Charlie Gray

6.6 Strategic governance

The General Council continued to make improvements to the TUC’s strategic governance, introducing changes to the Executive Committee and General Council, including time limits for speakers, and quarterly meetings of equality committee chairs. In spring 2019 the TUC consulted affiliates and statutory committees on further improvements to committees and conferences, outcomes from which will be progressed across the 2019–20 Congress year.

6.7 Women’s Conference

This year’s wide-ranging TUC Women’s Conference was chaired by Sujata Patel of Usdaw and debated motions including fighting to combat the far right, sexual harassment, the gender pay gap and period poverty. The conference heard from the TUC president and general secretary, from Dawn Butler MP (shadow minister for women and equalities) and speakers from the Repeal the 8th Campaign and Maternity Action.

6.8 Black Workers Conference

Winning Workplace Unity was the theme of the TUC Black Workers Conference. Chaired by Sajid Sheikh of the CWU, and addressed by TUC Deputy General Secretary Paul Nowak, conference welcomed speeches by Claude Moraes MEP, Sandra Kerr (Business in the Community), Kye Gbangola (The Truth about Zane Campaign), Phien O’Reachtigan (Gypsies and Traveller Coalition) and Nazek Rahman (Migrant Voice).

6.9 Disabled Workers Conference 

The Disabled Workers Conference chairing was shared between Seán McGovern (Unite), Sian Stockham (UNISON), Ann Galpin (NUJ) and Tony Sneddon (CWU). The conference was addressed by TUC Deputy General Secretary Paul Nowak and included a well-received panel discussion on independent living, with experts from Disabled People Against Cuts, the European Network on Independent Living and the Reclaiming Our Futures Alliance.

6.10 LGBT+ Conference

The LGBT+ Conference chairing was shared between Maria Exall (CWU), Phil Jones (Unite), Peter Taylor (NASUWT) and Taranjit Chana (GMB). The conference was addressed by TUC General Secretary Frances O’Grady, Shadow Education Secretary Angela Rayner MP and Dr S Chelvan, barrister specialising in LGBT+ asylum cases. There was a well-received panel discussion on inclusive education with experts from NASUWT, LGBT History Month and Schools OUT UK and the Founder of Birmingham South Asians LGBT – Finding A Voice, an independent, multi-faith social support group for South Asian men and women.

6.11 Young Workers Conference

This year’s Young Workers Conference was lively and action-focused, with the launch of the Report It! campaign and delegates speaking to shop workers in central London about their rights around harassment and abuse. Workshops on mental health, digital organising and tackling the far right were well received, as well as an expert panel on organising precarious young workers, the women’s reception, a seminar on tackling misogyny and a Q&A with Frances O’Grady. Conference voted to continue campaigns on harassment and abuse, and mental health.

6.12 Trades Councils Conference

The Trades Councils Conference debated a range of issues of concern to union members and local communities. The conference was chaired by Roger McKenzie of UNISON and was addressed by TUC President Mark Serwotka, Ines Lage of the South West TUC and speakers from the Jallianwala Bagh Massacre 1919 Centenary Committee.


6.13 TUC finances

The annual statement of accounts and balance sheet as at 31 December 2018 is set out in Appendix 3. It shows a total deficit across all funds of £3.25m, including asset revaluations and FRS 102 accounting adjustments. The operating surplus on ordinary activities of £81,000 comprises a deficit of £156,000 on the administration fund and surpluses of £95,000 and £142,000 on the development and Congress House dilapidations funds respectively.

Development fund

In 2018, 10 per cent of the affiliation fee was allocated to the development fund, alongside some external funding, and was used to promote new work and General Council initiatives. This was used to support a variety of projects, with the main initiatives being:

  • great jobs for everyone
  • an economy that works for working people
  • a thriving movement that delivers for younger workers
  • effective TUC and 150th anniversary
  • global solidarity.

The development fund representing all non-unionlearn externally funded projects, together with projects funded by the affiliation fee, showed an operating surplus of £95,000.

Statement of accounts

The administration fund (covering day-to-day office running expenses and staff costs) produced a deficit on ordinary activities of £156,000, while unionlearn funds broke even. The development fund is shown above, while the dilapidations fund showed that £427,000 was spent on the upkeep of Congress House during the year and £569,000 was transferred to the dilapidations fund from the administration fund.

During 2018, our calculated FRS102 pension scheme position moved from a £11,936,000 surplus to £10,674,000. This negative movement of £1,262,000, together with the operating surplus of £81,000, the gain of £75,000 on sale of investments, net revaluation and deferred tax loss of £2,144,000, has reduced the funds of the TUC from £84,606,000 to £81,356,000.

Prospects and developments

A budget for the administration fund 2019 has been agreed by the General Council. This showed a projected deficit of £193,626, primarily as a consequence of the pressures on affiliation fees, investment and property income. The General Council approved a six pence (2 per cent) increase in the affiliation fee to £2.88 pence for 2019.

Our internal audit work in 2018 included a review of the effectiveness of our management of large projects as well as our procedures for ensuring compliance with tax reporting requirements. TUC has retained its Fair Tax accreditation.

Young workers and unions – agents for change is the new exhibition from the TUC Library available for loan from 2019
Young workers and unions – agents for change is the new exhibition from the TUC Library available for loan from 2019

6.14 TUC Library

Located at London Metropolitan University, TUC Library attracts a wide range of researchers interested in both the history and the current activities of trade unions, industrial relations, labour history and adult education.

We have five pop-up exhibitions available for loan: the latest, on the history of young workers and trade unions; 150 years of the TUC; the 1984/85 miners’ strike; the impact of the Russian Revolution on the left; and the relationship between American and British labour movements.

Our educational history websites – The Union Makes Us Strong, Workers’ War, Winning Equal Pay and Britain at Work – contain images, archives and oral history and can all be accessed from

Contact TUC Librarian Jeff Howarth to arrange visits and inductions at: 
London Metropolitan University
The Wash Houses
Old Castle Street 
London E1 7NT
020 7320 3516 

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