What is a "Trades Union Council" like Clydebank TUC?

A labour council, trades council or industrial council is an association of labour unions or union branches in a given area. Most commonly, they represent unions in a given geographical area, whether at the district, city, region, or provincial or state level. They may also be based on a particular industry rather than geographical area. So Clydebank TUC represents the trade union branches in local area, uniting Clydebank's trade unionists with the local community.


Labour Councils were formed to meet a need to co-ordinate trade union activity in a geographical region. The earliest examples of this form of organisation can be found in the medieval craft guilds and Craft halls that developed in European cities. An example of this is the historic Glasgow Trades Hall wherein the 14 Incorporated Trades of Hammermen, Tailors, Cordiners, Maltmen, Weavers, Bakers, Skinners, Wrights, Coopers, Fleshers, Masons, Gardeners, Barbers, Bonnetmakers & Dyers yearly elected members of the Trades House, headed by the Deacon Convener of the Trades:

The Trades House of Glasgow was created at the time of reform of Glasgow's local government in 1605. At that time the electorate was basically divided into two groups, the Merchants and the Craftsmen. The Craft Incorporations or Guilds comprised the trades Rank of Burgesses under the leadership of the deacon convener, who was given a council. This included the Craft leaders and is the body we now recognise as the Trades House.

The trade union activity of the late nineteenth century in particular spurred the establishment of Labour Councils and Trades Councils acrossing North America, Australia and Britain.


Trades Union Councils bring together unions to work and campaign around issues affecting working people in their local workplaces and 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 the threats of racism and fascism, changes in the labour market and debates over the future of public services, the trade union voice in the community is as important as ever. The capacity of trades union councils to provide a local response and 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.

How Trades Union Councils work

Trades Union Councils consist of trade unions or branches of trade unions which meet within the area covered by that council, or which 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. Each branch will then send delegates to the trades union council's meetings. These branches pay an affiliation fee. Their 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 STUC General Council. 

Some information taken from http://www.tuc.org.uk/union-issues/unions-community/trades-councils

(NB The TUC doesn't cover Scotland, and the relationship between the STUC & Scottish Trades Union Councils are somewhat different in areas)