Camden Trades Council and the Trade Union movement

What are Trades Union Councils?

How Trades Union Councils work

Delegates elected by trade union branches which meet or have members working or living within the area meet as Trades Union Councils (or Trades Councils).

A union branch will normally affiliate to the trades union council in the area in which it meets. Each branch will then send delegates to the trades union council’s meetings. These branches pay an affiliation fee. Our trades union council is open to all trade unionists to attend although only delegates can vote.

Delegates elect officers from amongst themselves to represent the views and priorities of the constituent branches and to take responsibility for working for and supporting the policy of Congress and the TUC General Council. This is because trades union councils are registered with the TUC, rather than being entirely independent bodies.

The Annual Conference of Trades Union Councils takes place over a May/June weekend.

Camden Trades Council is part of the Greater London Association of Trades Councils ( GLATC in turn is part of the Southern & Eastern Region of the TUC (SERTUC; Furthe information on Trades Councils is available on the Trades Counils page on the TUC website ( and below.

Trades Union Councils bring unions together to campaign around issues affecting working people in their workplaces and local communities. Trades Union Councils aim to:

• Raise public awareness of rights at work, and the union role in enforcing those rights

• Promote organising and recruitment drives to build union membership

• Support union and community campaigns for dignity and respect in the workplace and beyond

With threats of racism and fascism, changes in the labour market and debate over the future of public services, the trades union voice in the community is as important as ever. The capacity of Trades Union Councils to provide a local response to organise trade unionists into coalitions with other progressive forces is crucial. They do this by providing services, which keep local trade unionists up-to-date with developments within the wider trade union movement, and by taking up relevant local industrial and community issues. This guide provides a brief introduction to trade union councils and how they work.

How do Trades Union Councils operate?

In this section, we describe the basic operation of trade union councils.


Trades union councils consist of representatives of trade unions or branches of trade unions which meet within the area covered by that Council, or have members working or living in the area.

A union branch will normally affiliate to the trades union council in the area in which it meets. Where branch membership is spread over two or more trade union councils areas, the branch can affiliate to more than one trades union Council with the agreement of the relevant Councils.


Union branches usually appoint their delegates to trade union councils at their annual meetings. The number of delegates that the branch is entitled to send to the council is determined by the scale of representation set out in each trade union council`s rules.
Affiliation fees

The funds of trade union councils are mainly drawn from the affiliation fees paid by trade union branches out of the general funds, based on their local membership. The amount of the affiliation fees is a matter for each trades union council to decide. Although they decide the level of the affiliation fee, trades union councils also have to bear in mind that some unions have rules which specify how affiliation fees shall be paid and, in some cases, stipulate a maximum payment.


Branches elect delegates to attend a local trades union council. That delegate than has the responsibility to represent the collective view of the branch within the trades union council.

Similarly, the officers of the trade union councils are elected by the delegates to the Council and are responsible to the delegates. As officers of a trade union council registered with the TUC, they accept a responsibility to the TUC. This includes upholding the objects of the trades council, and to work for and support the policy of Congress and the General Council of the TUC.

Trades Union Councils operate under the model rules approved by the General Council of the TUC. It is not expected every trade union councils will have rules which exactly replicate the model rules. However there are certain rules which must be included and followed by all registered trade union councils. Any changes to a trade union councils rules must be notified to the TUC. The date of adoption and dates of revisions should be clearly stated.


The objects of a trades union council, as set out in the model rules, are:

• To provide services to affiliated branches on a wide range of industrial, social and community issues

• To promote the interests of all of its affiliated organisations and to secure united action on all questions affecting or likely to affect those interests, including making representations to local authorities about matters of common concern to trade unionists within the district, and nominating representatives to a number of statutory committees .

• To act as a local body of the TUC, and to support and work for the application of such objects as the TUC may from time to time determine, including making more widely known in its area national policy declared by the TUC

• To improve generally the economic and social conditions of working people, including seeking improvements at the social services, public education, housing and health

• To help promote suitable cultural, educational, social and sports facilities for all working people

• To affiliate and to play an active part in the work of its appropriate County association (this rule applies in England only).

In addition, each trades union council in England is required to affiliate to its appropriate County Association and its appropriate TUC Regional Council. Each trades union council in England and Wales is also required to register with the General Council. Such registration may be made at any time and will remain current and operative from the date it is received by the TUC until May 31 in the following year.

In no circumstances shall the council cooperate with or subscribe to: the funds of fascist parties or any subsidiary organisations of these parties; any organisations whose policies or activities are contrary to those of the Trade Union Congress; or any industrial organisation which has been proscribed by the General Council. Nor shall Council subscribe to the funds of any political party. The council may cooperate with the local Labour Party, providing that no part of the funds of the Council derived from the general funds of affiliated trade unions shall be applied directly or indirectly in the furtherance of the political objects specified in section 72 of the Trade Union and Labour Relations (Consolidation) act, 1992.

County Trades Union Councils

In England, each trade union council registered with the TUC must also affiliate to the appropriate County association, unless the Trades Union Council has been allowed by the Trade Union Councils Joint Consultative Committee to operate as a county trades union council. The association is made up of elected representatives of affiliated trade union councils.

The objects of the association are set out in the model rules and fall within the following four categories:

• To act as a representative body of the TUC for the County in helping to publicise and administer TUC policy, including liaison on matters of joint concern with the TUC Regional Council.

• To act as an electoral body for trade union councils` representatives on the TUC Regional Council.

• To promote the effective working of trade union councils in the County and to coordinate their activities, particularly by making representations to the County Council and the other bodies at county level about matters of common concern to trade councils within the County.

• To assist, in conjunction with the trade union councils joint consultative committee, the development of trade union councils in the County by helping them to obtain affiliations on full membership from all trade union branches in their areas and promoting the establishment of new councils in particular local authority areas where none currently exist.

Trades Union Councils Joint Consultative Committee

The trade union councils joint consultative committee (TUCJCC) is a TUC committee, which meets five times a year. It consists of representatives of trade union councils and members of the General Council. The trade union council representatives are elected regionally by registered trade union councils in an annual postal ballot.

The TUCJCC was established in 1925 and act as an advisory and consultative committee on all matters concerning trade union councils. This enables the General Council on issues affecting trade union councils to consider their perspective before taking a final decision.

Annual conference

The annual conference of trade union councils is usually held on a weekend in May. Each trades union council is entitled to be represented at the conference by one delegate. Each County Association is entitled to be represented by two delegates, at least one of whom must be a woman. In addition, County Associations may send a third delegate provided that they are either a young trade unionist or a black trade unionist.

The principal objects of the conference are:

• To discuss the work of the TUCJCC.

• To receive reports on resolutions which were carried by the previous year`s conference .

• To discuss ways of strengthening the organisation of trade union councils and county associations.

• To receive the report of scrutineers on the ballot for membership of the TUC JCC.

Trade union councils can submit motions for discussion at the conference through their County Association. Motions must be concerned with the organisation of work of trade union councils, or implementing some aspect of Congress policy. County associations are then able to select up to two motions to be submitted for the conference agenda. In addition, county associations can submit one amendment to any of the motions on the agenda.

Development grant

Each year, the TUCJCC draws up a programme of work which outlines key priorities and campaigning objects of trade union councils. To support trade union councils in locally implementing the campaigns outlined in the programme of work, the General Council has established a development grant. Grant of up to £300 are distributed by the TUC Regional Secretaries for activities developed in line with this programme. An application form is available from the TUC Regional Office. Trade union councils are encouraged to make joint bids for grants in order to fund collaborative projects.

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