What is a trade union?

Trade unions are organisations like Unite the Union, who band together workers and communities to achieve common goals, such as

  • higher pay
  • more jobs
  • better and safer working conditions
  • education, up-skill and more apprenticeships

They also give equality a voice and a platform. Equality committees represent the rights of

  • women
  • black, Asian and ethnic minorities
  • people with disabilities
  • lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people
  • young members.

Overall, unions unite to influence and challenge injustice at work or in our communities

Trade unions don’t just represent workers, they also represent students, unemployed and retired through community schemes.

How did it all start?

In 1834, farm workers in Tolpuddle, Dorset were arrested for organising. Since then, unions have fought for decent wages, health and safety and equal pay across the world. They have also fought for democracy and human rights.


SPEAKER: For the shop steward’s recommendations can we have a show of hands? Shout aye brother.


So what have trade unions done?

  • Abolished child labour in Britain
  • Achieved the right to collectively bargain with an employer over pay, working conditions and holidays
  • Brought about the average five-day working week
  • Campaigned to introducte
    • paid holidays
    • maternity leave
    • equal pay for women
    • national minimum wage
    • Health and Safety etc Act 1974, meaning employers must train in basic health and safety
    • tougher laws on discrimination and harassment in the workplace
  • and much, much more

Can anyone join?

Yes! Anyone can join:

  • workers
  • students
  • apprentices
  • professionals
  • unemployed people
  • retired people.

Everyone has the right to join a union. By law, an employer cannot discriminate if you join a union.

Where are trade unions now?

I was going to show you

  • how we fight unfair cuts and attacks on the poor, disabled and hard-working families
  • how we stand with students fighting unfair fees and foreign students facing deportation.
  • how we fight all over the world with other trade unions.

But where are trade unions now? Here!

Trade union is you! It’s the tool for anyone to help fight for what’s right.