Who We Are & What We Do

Trades Union Councils (TUCs) or Trades Councils (TCs) as they are often referred to, promote working-class solidarity in local communities. In the Bolton area we’ve had one since 1866.

What is a trades union council?

Trades union councils are local groups of trade unionists. They are elected from trade union branches whose members live and/or work in the area. TUCs promote effective solidarity in disputes, joint campaigns on issues such as health, education, welfare and transport, and, in general, provide the vital link between the workplace and the wider working-class community. Trade union branches affiliate to their local TUC on the basis of a small annual fee per member, which is usually between 10p and 25p. In turn, TUCs support, and can themselves affiliate to, local and national union campaigns for social justice.

What do trades union councils do?

TUCs’ activities are guided by an annual programme of work, determined by their annual conference. This can include campaigns to defend the NHS, to promote public education, transport, the welfare state, and to support benefit claimants, women, black, ethnic minority, gay and transgender people, young people and people with disabilities.

“TUCs promote effective solidarity in disputes, joint campaigns on issues such as health, education, welfare and transport, and, in general, provide the vital link between the workplace and the wider working-class community.”

Trades councils and the trade union movement

Trades councils are the local trade union movement! They can be called upon by any trade union branch to show strike or other dispute solidarity, which could be
via a picket line, media publicity or a financial appeal. National trade unions can promote their priority issues more effectively when local trades councils assist with publicity, leaflet distribution, recruitment, and speakers at meetings. When trades councils respond to strong feeling in working-class communities, they can report this to the Trades Union Congress (TUC) at regional and national levels.

Trades councils at county and regional levels

Trades councils can combine within one or more local government areas to form a delegate-based County Association (CA), which meets to co-ordinate campaign and solidarity work across that wider area. Trades councils can also send delegates to regional TUC meetings and conferences, either directly or via their County Association, and may have seats on the Executive Committee of regional TUCs. Bolton TUC is part of the Greater Manchester Association of Trades Union Councils (GMATUC).

More About Us & Our History

150 Years of Struggle

The sun smiled on the workers today, on the anniversary of Guy Fawkes’ attempt to blow up Parliament. 

The workers’ jury is still debating whether we’d be better or worse off if Guy Fawkes had succeeded; but there was no doubt that those hundreds of people who assembled in Queen’s Park this morning by the statue of John Fielding – the first Secretary of Bolton TUC in 1866 – were there to celebrate the birth of an important part of working class organisation in Bolton – Bolton & District United Trades Council. 

The day began with a confident address from John McDonnell, Labour Shadow Vice Chancellor, who finished an upbeat account of recent Labour Party organisation by announcing that the Party is now on a war footing in preparation for a possible General Election next May. 
After the Shadow Chancellor’s address, the crowd processed – amongst a swirl of trade union banners – to the recently-built cafe, where they were delighted by speeches from Bernie Gallagher (Unison), Ian Hodson (Bakers’ Union), and John Trickett (Labour MP for Hemsworth, W. Yorkshire). A lively discussion ensued – so lively that the 12.30pm lunch was put back till 1 pm. 

After an impressive buffet lunch, the crowd piled back to listen to punk poets Jeff Dawson and Gordon Zola poignantly point up some of the many contradictions involved in survival with dignity in today’s globalised society, before Nat Clare brought the house down with a rendition of ” We Built  Bolton “, a song he wrote especially to commemorate the 150th anniversary of Bolton TUC. By the time Nat finished, all the lunchtime stragglers were back in the room and on their feet to give a rousing standing ovation. 

The afternoon session was then followed by a discussion about the way forward for trade unions in the 21st century, led by Martin McMulkin (NW Regional Committee Unite & Bolton TUC Secretary), Lynn Collins (North West TUC), and Manuel Cortes (TSSA). 

This again provoked much discussion from the audience, and threw up some original suggestions for organising in the 21st century.

To round off the day, a cake was gifted to the organisers by Shana Begum, who has recently been drawn to support the Labour Party through the election of Jeremy Corbyn as Labour Party leader. 

A great day, and an indication of the extent to which interest in trade union and Labour ideas has grown recently. In excess of one hundred people gave up most of their Saturday to share ideas and support the Labour movement. 

The times they are a changin…… Maybe Bob Dylan can call by en route to his Nobel Prize acceptance and join Nat Clare in a rendition of ” We Built Bolton” ? I’m sure we could offer him honorary membership of Bolton TUC. He would be part of a long and distinguished history!   

Tom Hanley 
Media Correspondent 
Bolton TUC 

November 2016

Check out the video footage from our 150th Anniversary Celebration in Queen’s Park, Bolton on Saturday 5th November 2016:

Bolton & District 150th Anniversary video.

Original song commissioned by Bolton TUC for the 150th Anniversary celebrations bt Nat Clare

Further Articles

The Post-War Consensus, Thatcherism & Building Trades Unions in the 21st Century by Tom Hanley