Unemployed Workers Centres
When I was a CPSA/PCS activist in the late 80s/1990s, for a period of time it seemed that I was never out of the Merseyside Trade Union Community Unemployed Resource Centre, a building that dominated (and still does) the top half of Hardman Street in Liverpool.
I was there for training (it housed the city’s TU Ed unit), to attend various meetings and to patronise the famous Flying Picket bar – which had a bust of Marx placed (ironically?) next to the till. The MTUCURC was also a feature of Branch AGMs as they always featured an appeal for contributions to the One Fund For All which went some way to providing the centre, and others across the country, with funds.
Whilst the building remains, MTUCURC is no more – although in many cases the work of the organisations it once housed goes on. The Unemployed Workers Centre has moved, as has the TU Ed unit. There’s been no replacement for the Flying Picket though!
My memories of the MTUCURC come to mind as I’ve spent the last day and a half in Newcastle facilitating a seminar on the future link between UWCs, the TUC and unions.
The seminar was held under the TUCs Active Unions, Active Communities Project which is aimed at building the capacity of TUC regions to support key TUC campaigns and build community alliances that will add value to organising initiatives.
Unemployed Workers Centres have been in existence for some 30 years and back in the 80s and 90s were at the heart of TU campaigns against unemployment. They still continue this fight but also provide an impressive range of services to both the unemployed and working people and their families. However, their numbers have been in decline for some time and now there are only 50 centres in existence.
It wouldn’t be right to anticipate here the results of the seminar which was attended by representatives from UWCs from the North East, North West, Lancashire and Derbyshire but there was a really positive desire to reffirm and revitalise the kind of work and services that UWCs carry out and provide across the country.