Campaigning for young workers


November will be the TUC’s third annual Young Workers Month. To mark the occasion, we look back at the labour movement’s campaigns on behalf of young workers.

In 1928 the Ministry of Labour introduced the Juvenile Transference Scheme, to encourage the young unemployed to move to other parts of the country to find work. Most of those that transferred were from Scotland and the North moving to the Midlands and London and the South East. The TUC opposed the transference of those under 16 and was concerned that those between the ages of 16-18 could simply be exploited as cheap labour.

Leaflet from the Ministry of Labour promoting the Juvenile Transference Scheme, c.1927

The 1929 General Election was the first to be fought following the Representation of the People Act 1928, which had introduced equal suffrage for women from the age of 21. The leaflet below was produced by the Labour Party during the 1929 election campaign.

Leaflet produced by the Labour Party, 1929

In 1937 apprentices went out on strike, in one of the first such disputes of its kind. Apprentices were “bound” to their employers with very few rights and often low pay. Dissatisfaction with conditions and the structure of their training spread from apprentices on Clydeside to other areas of the country. At its peak over 3,500 apprentices were on strike. The dispute was finally resolved with a national agreement for the Amalgamated Engineering Union to represent apprentices, securing improvements to their working conditions.

Apprentices strike, 1937

In 1938 the TUC introduced a Youth Charter for young workers, demanding the raising of the school leaving age to 16, a limit of 40 hours on the working week, a ban on overtime for those under 18 and 14 days paid holiday per year.

TUC young workers recruitment leaflet, 1938

During the Second World War young people were instrumental to the war effort on the Home Front. By 1943/44 manpower shortages in the mining industry led to the introduction of a scheme to transfer young men volunteering for military service into coal mining activities. These became known as “Bevin Boys“, after wartime Minister of Labour Ernest Bevin. Following the war, many young people were encouraged to aid reconstruction efforts, particularly by taking up apprenticeships in house building and other trades.

In the post-war period recruitment of young people remained high on the agenda for the union movement, although the tactics that were sometimes employed now seem rather old fashioned. In the early 1960s it was not unusual for unions to hold “Personality Girl” contests to try and recruit young women, with events including “makeup demonstrations” (see below).

Leaflet for union recruitment week, 1960

The leaflet below promotes the Youth Employment Service in 1963. The service had its roots in the post-war Labour government and the 1948 Employment and Training Act and sought to provide advice on career options for school-leavers . By the 1970s the scheme had been replaced by the Careers Service.

Youth Employment Service leaflet, Ministry of Labour, 1963

In 1978 the Callaghan government introduced the Youth Opportunities Scheme, later reorganised into the Youth Training Scheme by the Thatcher government. The period of economic and industrial unrest in the late 1970s-early 1980s resulted in rising unemployment and growing concerns that it was hitting the young particularly badly. In 1981 there was a People’s March for Jobs and the TUC also organised the Jobs for Youth Campaign, including the Jobs Express – a train that travelled round the country highlighting the unemployment issues affecting young people.

Poster promoting the TUC Jobs Express rally, November 1981

The Youth Opportunities Scheme (YOPS) and its transfer into the Youth Training Scheme (YTS) in 1983-4, provoked some controversy amongst elements of the labour movement. These concerns often echoed those of similar schemes stretching back to the 1920s – namely, concerns about the quality of the training provided and the potential for exploiting young people as cheap labour.

Young people on the Youth Opportunities Scheme (YOPS) hold placards demanding proper training and an end to cheap labour, 1983

The TUC Library continues to collect a broad range of material relating to issues concerning young people. These include recent publications from the TUC and other organisations on the youth labour market, guides for students and agency workers, post-financial crisis austerity and inter-generational fairness, the housing crisis affecting young people, etc.

For more information on what we hold on these subjects, or to arrange an appointment to visit, get in touch.







History of campaigning on behalf of cleaners and domestic staff


This week the TUC joined a Cleaning Taskforce campaign established by the Equalities and Human Rights Commission. The campaign seeks to improve working practices in the cleaning industry and ensure that cleaners are treated with dignity and respect in the workplace.

To mark the occasion, we thought we would highlight the material in the TUC Library that documents the history of various campaigns on behalf of cleaners and domestic workers.

For much of the 19th and early 20th centuries, cleaners and domestic staff were predominantly women and they worked for private families in conditions that made union organising difficult.

House keeper and domestic staff, c.1900

The introduction of the first rudimentary welfare reforms in the early 20th century were often paternalistic and accepted a ‘male breadwinner’ model of the labour market. The Unemployment Insurance Act 1920 specifically denied benefits to women who had rejected domestic service. In response the National Federation of Women Workers organised a demonstration and set up its own benefits scheme for its members.

National Federation of Women Workers demonstration, 1920.

In 1938 the TUC established the National Union of Domestic Workers, administered by the TUC Women’s Officer and the General Council. It existed until 1953.

TUC leaflet for domestic workers, 1938

Despite gradual improvements to conditions in the industry, cleaners still remained generally low paid, non-unionised women.

A strike by cleaners at St Anne’s College, Oxford University, 1972

A victory in the struggle for equal pay for women had been won with the passing of the 1970 Equal Pay Act, but it took many years for the benefit of the legislation to be felt by women and to this day there is still on average a 15-20% ‘pay gap’ between men and women. The cartoon below, from 1982, shows a cleaner discovering that the issue of equal pay has been ‘swept under the carpet’.

Cartoon, by Evans, 1982

The special issue of ‘Community Action’ from 1984, below, an independent magazine for public service users, highlights issues of low pay and conditions for cleaners. It also investigates the effects of the emerging trend for outsourcing and privatisation of cleaning services.

The Cleaners’ Story, Community Action magazine, 1984

In 1987 an International Cleaners Conference took place in Brixton, with topics of discussion including health and safety, racism at work and issues for migrant workers, etc.

Poster for the International Cleaners Conference, Lambeth Town Hall, November 1987

The TUC continues to produce research on issues of precarious and vulnerable work in industries including cleaning, such as the publication below.

The report of the TUC’s Commission on Vulnerable Employment, 2008

These items are just a small selection of the material in the TUC Library on the subject of the cleaning industry. To find out more, or arrange an appointment to visit, get in touch.





What will be the impact of the Government’s tax credit and benefit changes?


A selection of publications of the subject of welfare and benefits, from organisations such as the TUC and the Labour Research Department.

The debate on the issue of cuts to the welfare bill has taken centre stage in recent days. Some argue that the changes are necessary to secure economic recovery and incentive work, whilst others attack the government for downplaying the effect of cuts to tax credits on poor working families. The controversy sparked by the impassioned attack on Question Time from a Tory voter aimed at a Conservative minister has highlighted the emotive nature of the issue.

The TUC Library contains a wide range of publications on the tax, welfare and benefit changes that have been implemented in recent years. Many of these have been published by the TUC, not only on the subject of tax credits…

TUC publication on tax credits

But also on how the introduction of Universal Credit is being implemented….

“Will Universal Credit Work?” by the TUC, 2013

And the impact of the changes to Child Benefit…

“Eroding Child Benefit”, by the TUC, 2015

To consult these items, or find out more about what the library holds, get in touch.



World Day for Decent Work


A selection of recent TUC publications on aspects of ‘decent work’.

October 7th is World Day for Decent Work, organised by the International Trade Union Confederation. The day highlights international issues of vulnerable and precarious working conditions, low pay, health and safety, and the need for global union organising.

The TUC Library holds a broad range of publications from UK and international unions, charities and campaigning organisations on topics such as migrant workers, outsourcing and off-shoring, low pay and zero hours contracts, bullying and harrassment, women’s employment issues, safety at work, etc.

To find out more, get in touch.



South African worker solidarity and Black History Month


To coincide with Black History Month this October, we thought we would share this poster recently acquired by the library. It advertises UK performances by Sisters of the Long March, an all-women dancing and singing group from South Africa. They were performing to raise awareness and offer solidarity to striking workers at the Sarmcol plant in dispute with the British Tyre and Rubber (BTR) company in the mid-1980s. The performances were presented in association with the National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (NUMSA) and the TUC.

You can find an earlier blog post on what the TUC Library holds on the subjects of black workers and race relations here.

For more information on this item or to visit the library, get in touch.


Donation from the Engineer Surveyors Section of Unite the Union


Geoff Hayward (right), Chairman of the Engineer Surveyors Section of Unite, donating items to Jeff Howarth, Librarian of the TUC Library Collections.

We are very grateful to Geoff Hayward, Chairman of the Engineer Surveyors Section of Unite from 2010 to 2015, who this week donated a copy of the new centenary history of the union to the TUC Library.

The Engineer Surveyors Association were formed in 1914 and affiliated to the TUC in 1940. The TUC Library holds a collection of publications from the union, including a (incomplete) collection of its journal. Geoff Hayward made several visits to the Library during the research for the new book and has also kindly donated various issues of the union journal to fill gaps in our collection. Geoff also donated a copy of the 50th anniversary “Jubilee” publication of the ESA, 1914-1964 (see pic below).

The new centenary book (left) and 1964 “Jubilee” publication, recently donated to the Library

If you would like to find out more about the history of the Engineer Surveyors, or consult the items donated, please get in touch to arrange a visit.