Community (trade union)

Community (trade union)
Community logo.png
Full name Community
Founded 2004
Members aprox 23,000
Country United Kingdom
Affiliation TUC, STUC, CSEU, Labour Party[1]
Key people Michael J. Leahy OBE, General Secretary
Office location London, England

Community is a UK trade union representing workers in the iron and steel, domestic appliance manufacturing, clothing, textiles, footwear and betting industries as well as workers in voluntary organisations, workshops for visually impaired and disabled people, community-care providers and housing associations. Community has merged or transferred engagements with a number of smaller unions, some of which have become sections within Community. These include the National League of the Blind and Disabled (NLBD), the National Union of Domestic Appliance and General Operatives (NUDAGO), the Knitwear, Footwear and Apparel Trades (KFAT) and the British Union of Social Work Employees (BUSWE).

Community actively participates in the Trades Union Congress and Community General Secretary Michael Leahy served as TUC President in 2010/2011. The union supports the New Unionism project of the TUC, particularly the TUC organising academy.

When Community was formed from the merger of KFAT and the ISTC in 2004 it was arranged for the first new member of the newly constituted union to be the then UK Chancellor of the Exchequer (and future Prime Minister), Gordon Brown.[2]



Community was formed from a merger of the Iron and Steel Trades Confederation (ISTC) and the National Union of Knitwear, Footwear & Apparel Trades(KFAT). Occurring on July 1, 2004, Community began advocating ‘Community Unionism’ which dictates that the union directs effort not only towards improving conditions in the workplace but also in the general community in which members live.

Iron and Steel Trades Confederation (ISTC)

The Iron and Steel Trades Confederation (ISTC) was constituted on 1 January 1917 from a merger of the British Steel Smelters, Mill, Iron and Tinplate Workers, The Associated Iron and Steel Workers of Great Britain and the National Steel Workers’ Association Engineering and Labour League[3].

The ISTC was later joined by the Amalgamated Association of Steel & Iron Workers of Great Britain in 1920 and the Tin and Sheet Millmens Association in 1921. The Wire Workers Union joined in 1922, but withdrew in 1924. The Wire Workers Union rejoined in 1991. In 1985 the National Union of Blast-furnace-men joined the ISTC.

However the decline of British manufacturing jobs in these industries led the union to diversify its membership merging with the National League of the Blind and Disabled (NLBD) in 1999 and the Power Loom Carpet Weavers and Textile Workers Union (PLCWTWU) in 2000.

National Union of Knitwear, Footwear and Apparel Trades (KFAT)

The National Union of Knitwear, Footwear & Apparel Trades (KFAT) was formed in 1991 by the merger of the National Union of Hosiery and Knitwear Workers (NUHKW) with National Union of Footwear, Leather and Allied Trades (NUFLAT).

NUFLAT had been formed in 1873 following a meeting of various regional associations. The history of the NUHKW can be traced back to 1776 and the formation of the Stocking Makers Association in Nottingham.

National League of the Blind and the Disabled (NLBD)

The NLBD is the oldest organisation of disabled people in the world. It was formed as a trade union in 1899.

The NLBD campaigned for disabled people from formation and in 1920 lobbied parliament successfully to introduce the world's first piece of blind person specific legislation, the 1920 blind person act. This tradition of advocacy contributed to the creation of the Disability Rights Commission and the 2005 Disability Discrimination Act.

British Union of Social Work Employees (BUSWE)

In 2008 the membership of BUSWE voted in favour of a transfer of engagements to Community.

BUSWE (the British Union of Social Work Employees) originated in 1976 when a group of social workers in Yorkshire met to form a breakaway organisation from the local government white collar union (NALGO) and the Professional Association (the British Association of Social Workers) - the National Union of Social Workers (NUSW) was the result. This prompted BASW to set up its own trade union arm (the British Union of Social Workers) but both NUSW and BUSW failed to make much impact as they were not recognised by the TUC (or the local authorities, who employ the vast majority of Social Workers) and virtually all social workers in local government remained in NALGO. NUSW and BUSW eventually merged (to form the British Union of Social Work Employees) and in 1985 employed a full-time General Secretary; former GMWU officer Stan Crawshaw. After a period of instability in the early 1990s BUSWE managed to record modest growth in the period 1996-7 without merging with another union (while virtually all TUC affiliated unions were still losing members). Their merger with Community in 2008 brought BUSWE members back into a TUC affiliated union. In a strange case of history repeating itself, BASW decided in 2011 to set up yet another trade union arm (this time called the "Social Workers' Union") but this body has no connection whatsoever with BUSWE branches within Community.


Community is affiliated to a number of national, European and International union structures.

At a national level, Community is affiliated to the Trades Union Congress (TUC), Scottish Trades Union Congress (STUC) and Wales TUC.

At a European level, Community affiliates to the European Trade Union Confederation (ETUC), European Metalworkers' Federation (EMF), European Trade Union Federation - Textiles, Clothing & Leather (ETUF-TCL) and UNI-Europa.

At an international level, Community affiliates to the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC), International Metalworkers' Federation (IMF), International Textile, Garment and Leather Workers' Federation (ITGLWF) and UNI-Global.


Community is organised into 8 regions and has several industrial sections. The regions are:

  • Scotland and Northern Ireland,
  • North East England,
  • Yorkshire and Humberside,
  • North West England and North Wales,
  • West Midlands
  • South Wales and South West England
  • East Midlands
  • London and South East England

The Sections are:

  • Steel, Wire and Domestic Appliance Workers (within which is a separate structure for members in Corus (Tata Steel Europe) - the UK's largest steel manufacturer).
  • Betting Shop Worker's
  • BUSWE Section - this has now been fully merged into the union but some branches retain the BUSWE designation and there is a distinct branch structure for members employed by the NSPCC.
  • Textile, Garment, Knitwear, Footwear and Leather Workers
  • National League of the Blind and Disabled - this section retains its own Nationl Committee and has a National Secretary (who is also Deputy General Secretary of Community).

Community is governed by the National Executive Council NEC of 21 members, the General Secretary and Deputy General Secretary. This body is elected for three year terms with each region being allocated NEC seats proportionally. There are also three seats reserved for women members, one for members with disabilities and one for ethnic minority members.

Each year the NEC elects one member to serve one year as Vice-President and then a further year as President.

The day to day business of the union is conducted by the General Secretary, Deputy General Secretary, two National Officers and four Regional Directors.

Office Holders

Community held its first elections for national office holders in October-November 2008.[4]

General Secretary

General Secretaries are elected for five year terms by the ordinary members of the union.

The Current General Secretary is Michael J. Leahy OBE, who served as General Secretary of the ISTC prior to the merger in 2004. Michael Leahy was elected as General Secretary of the ISTC in 1998 and re-elected as Community's General Secretary in 2008.

Deputy General Secretary

Joe Mann MBE was elected Deputy General Secretary in 2008. Joe Mann was the General Secretary of the National League of the Blind and Disabled prior to its merger with the ISTC in 2000. From 2000 until 2008, Joe Mann served as a National Officer of Community Union.

President and Vice President

The Vice President is elected annually by the NEC. After one year in this position the Vice President then serves one year as President of the union.


  1. ^
  2. ^ Stronger Together - Issue 7 June 2007
  3. ^ Tempered not Quenched - The history of the ISTC 1951 - 1997. Martin UphamLawrence & Wishart Limited 1997
  4. ^ Community Union website

External links

Syndicalism.svg Organized labour portal

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