Annual Conference of Trades Union Councils – 2018

Trades Union Councils logo

At the 2018 Annual Conference of Trades Union Councils Bristol was represented by Sheila Caffrey. Her report of Conference was presented to the July meeting of Bristol Trades Union Council which approved the report and the actions. The report can be found below.

As I had never attended before, I wasn’t sure what to expect… I was pleased to discover a weekend that was motivating, interesting and full of representatives who were trialing lots of ideas to build and develop their local Trades Councils.

Motions and discussions around deaf workers; fracking; zero-carbon industries; Football Lads Alliance, spying and blacklisting. There also was a big discussion around Heart Unions week. Everyone was in favour of the principle; however, many were questioning the timing and the literature produced.

There were two ‘workshop’ sessions that delegates chose. I chose to go to one about building Trades Councils and one about the campaign ‘Sheffield Needs a Pay Rise’. Both sessions allowed plenty of time for questions and discussion, which I thought was a good balance with the whole-conference sessions with speakers and motions.

Speakers included TUC organiser for the North West, who had clearly built a lot of activities around marking the 150 years of the TUC; Liz McInnes, a Labour MP and the BFAWU organiser for the McDonald’s workers. It was extremely interesting hearing from him how they had used a mixture for traditional methods and new different ways of reaching workers, which led to a strike by 47 workers getting a 6.5% pay rise for 1000s of workers from one of the most well-known companies world-wide!

I also attended a ‘womens’ reception’ Saturday evening, which through a mix-up in ordering, had two bottles of wine each for us! The idea of supporting and encouraging women delegates in a place that is still mainly male-dominated though I thought was a good idea.

Of course, the idea of attending conferences is to bring back ideas and to think how we can build, so I’ve highlighted key ideas below with my suggestions on how what other Trades Councils have done could benefit us in Bristol.

Points of Inspiration and Questions for Bristol Trades Council

Getting more people to meetings:

This was key theme in the building session, but also a discussion that clearly all trades councils are having. In Bristol, our numbers attending are certainly not the lowest; however, many small trades councils appeared to have been successful in building larger meetings and providing a popular and effective working-class hub for local TU branches. The most successful ones appeared to have done this in an organised and structured way, starting with inviting a speaker from all affiliated TUs and asking them to bring along a couple of members. Following this, they repeated this with TUs which aren’t affiliated. This sometimes had been through asking regional officials to speak but also asking them to bring along members. Alongside this, had been a mapping exercise of local branches and large workplaces (both unionised and un-unionised), which allowed them to contact activists, but also offer support to unions for un-unionised places. As Trades Councils should be campaigning and organising on issues that affect all workers, many have also opened their doors to invite in community campaigns, student campaigns and other activists. Although, these wouldn’t have voting rights, they could still be welcomed at meetings to help build a solid network of support to all workers. I thought these ideas sounded really interesting and ways in which we could develop in Bristol.

Suggested action:
  • Map workplaces across Bristol (Sept-Nov);
  • Invite two unions each meeting to have a 15-minute sharing slot for the next 6 months to see if it increases turn-out.


Four campaigns especially stood out for ones that could be developed by Trades Councils, rather than just supporting individual unions’ campaigns. It had become a key focus of the Trades Council work and pulled in activists from unions as they saw the Trades Council as somewhere that organised and fought for workers.

  • Sheffield Needs a Pay Rise sounded an excellent campaign and one that affects all workers. They are happy to share their literature they created, and we could amend it with local facts if it was something we wished to take up.
  • Refugee Rights is an organisation that many Trades Councils had affiliated to and invited speakers from. This could be an excellent campaign to link with, cutting across racist ideology and companies that try to divide their workers on these grounds.
  • Supporting un-unionised sectors/’workplaces’ e.g. Bakers Union is one that we have supported in Heart Union week and one that we could develop further.
  • Stress and mental health is a key issue in all workplaces and something we could campaign around. This could involve convening a meeting for unions or providing training. There is also currently a Mental Health sub-committee in the SW TUC and a conference in Nov in Birmingham, which we could also investigate supporting.>

Suggested action:
  • Choose a campaign to develop as a Trades Council to support other unions and to increase our active delegate base;
  • Invite a speaker from Refugee Rights and look to affiliating.


I think we have greatly increased our visibility and communication with workers in the last few years, and this is an issue that other Trades Councils have also clearly been battling with. One of the key ways that Trades Councils had done this was face-to-face with regular street stalls in different areas and ensuring their banner was at all local political events. Some had been successful at increasing on-line visibility through websites, Facebook and Twitter. This mainly worked when existing networks had grown and so those people then shared things on-line. Some wrote short reports of meetings (not just minutes) which were sent to all unions with photos and encouragement to attend a future event. Others had also had success with socials such as a Banner Theatre production or a film viewing.

Suggested action
  • Send short monthly reports to unions to include on their agendas;
  • Organise at least 2 street stalls before the end of the year around a key campaign;
  • Ensure events that are discussed at the end of each meetings has our banner there if any delegates are present;
  • Consider organising a social event.


Background information about Trades Union Councils can be found here A guide to trades union councils


Tolpuddle – 2018

Tolpuddle Martyrs
Friday 20th to Sunday 22nd July 2018

In 1834, farm workers in west Dorset formed a trade union. Unions were lawful and growing fast but six leaders of the union were arrested and sentenced to seven years’ transportation for taking an oath of secrecy. A massive protest swept across the country. Thousands of people marched through London and many more organised petitions and protest meetings to demand their freedom.

By June 1835, ten months after the Martyrs’ arrival in penal colonies, conditional pardons had been granted by Lord John Russell, the Home Secretary.

The Tolpuddle men refused to accept compromises and after further pressure, the Government agreed on 14th March 1836 that all the men should have a full and free pardon.

Trade unions had won and survived their first big challenge. The six farm workers from Tolpuddle were on their way home as free men.

Tolpuddle has become a place of celebration for trade unionists and socialists ever since the Martyrs’ came home in triumph.

Every July thousands of trade unionists and their supporters come to Tolpuddle to celebrate trade unionism and to remember the sacrifice made by the six farm workers of the village.

It has a fabulous atmosphere with a vibrant mix of political debate, speeches, music to suit all tastes, poetry, comedy, stalls and lots of entertainment for children.

The Festival starts on the Friday and the weekend camping is usually sold out so book early. The Sunday – the traditional rally day – attracts thousands of trade unionists from all over the country.

More information about the festival can be obtained from the TUC Tolpuddle Martyrs web page.

For transport details contact your local trade union office.

The Struggle for Palestine

The Struggle for Palestine

Monday 11th June 2018, 6.30pm
27 Broad Street Bristol

Palestine Museum Cultural Centre are pleased to welcome Dr Aqel Taqaz to Bristol for a much needed talk, at a time of serious difficulties and uncertainties,  exacerbated by key US decisions. Dr Aqel Taqaz will focus on the implications of recent events, and the historical contexts which lead us here.

Dr Aqel Taqaz is the president of the Palestinian Committee for Peace & Solidarity (PCPS) which is based in Ramallah,

This event is organised by the Palestine Museum Cultural Centre

Stop Universal Credit Rally

Stop Universal Credit

Thursday 24 May, 1.30pm
Temple St, Citizens Service Point,
Bristol, BS1 6AG

Despite knowing Universal Credit causes serious problems for claimants, the Tory government is pressing ahead and rolling it out to thousands of people who will have to wait weeks to receive any money.

Claimants are descending into debt, relying on food banks, getting into rent arrears and in many cases getting evicted from their homes because of in-built problems with Universal Credit.

Who gets Universal    Credit

Universal Credit replaces five benefits – child tax credit, housing benefit, income support, income-based jobseeker’s allowance, income-related employment and support allowance and working tax credit.

Seven million households will be affected, including over one million low paid part-time workers. For the first time ever people in work could face being sanctioned (having their benefits stopped) if they don’t prove to the job centre that they’re searching for better paid work or more hours.


Unite Community Membership logo
This event is organised by Unite Community Membership

More information on Unite’s Community Membership campaign can be found here Stop Universal Credit

Turning Swords Into Ploughshares

The Lucas Plan

Tue 22 May 2018
19:30 – 22:00 BST

BAWA Centre, 589 Southmead Rd,
Bristol, BS34 7RG

This screening of an edited version of the recent film “The Plan” in Filton should be seen as a contribution to the discussion on how to move forward con the Defence diversification Agency resolution passed overwhelmingly at the 2017 TUC Conference.

The Lucas Plan was a pioneering effort by workers at the arms company Lucas Aerospace to retain jobs by proposing alternative, socially-useful applications of the company’s technology and their own skills. It remains one of the most radical and forward thinking attempts ever made by workers to take the steering wheel and directly drive the direction of change.

Today, more than 40 years after the Lucas Plan — we’re facing a convergence of crises: militarism and nuclear weapons, climate chaos, and the destruction of jobs by automation.

Further details about the evening and information on booking tickets can be found at the eventbrite link Swords into Ploughshares” – The Lucas Plan, 40 Years On

This event is organised by Bristol Radical History Group (in conjunction with Bristol North West Labour Party)
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Cuba-US relations: Back to the future with Donald Trump?

Cuba-US relations: Back to the future with Donald Trump?

Tuesday 12 June, 7pm
Old Council Chamber,
Wills Memorial Building,
Public meeting with Canadian author Arnold August

Since his election US President Donald Trump has overseen a reversal of improved Cuba-US relations: tightening the 56-year-old US blockade against the island, approving funding for ‘regime change’ programmes and reducing staff at the US embassy. Expert on Cuba-US relations Arnold August will discuss what the future holds under the Trump administration.

A leaflet advertising the meeting can be downloaded from Cuba-US relations: Back to the future with Donald Trump?

CSC logo
This event is organised by Bristol and Bath Cuba Solidarity Campaign

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Unless explicitly stated otherwise any commercial advertisements appearing on this page aren’t endorsed or supported by Bristol Trades Union Council.