Work & Social Security Groups

Trade Unions

Some unions in the UK organise in one sector only, whereas others have members across sectors and employers. Talk to your colleagues/family about which union is best for you to join. You can find a list of TUC-affiliated unions here: Unite and UNISON also have branches specifically for unemployed people – they are called Community branches (i.e. Unite Community).

Unions that are known to focus on gig economy workers in particular/mostly are: IWGB, UVW, CAIWU, IWW. These unions are not affiliated to the TUC, which means that they are not included in the TUC’s search engine provided above, so I will provide information about each of them below. 

IWGB (Independent Workers’ Union of Great Britain): ‘IWGB is a new and dynamic union which represents mainly low paid migrant workers, such as outsourced cleaners and security guards, workers in the so-called “gig economy”, such as bicycle couriers and Uber drivers, and foster care workers. The IWGB specializes in representing sections of the workforce which have traditionally been non-unionised and under-represented’.

UVW (United Voices of the World): ‘UVW is a members-led, campaigning trade union which supports and empowers the most vulnerable groups of precarious, low-paid and predominantly migrant workers in the UK. We were founded in 2014, rapidly gaining media attention and popular support with a series of high-profile victories for workers at Sotheby’s, Harrods, and the London School of Economics (see all our successful campaigns here)’.

CAIWU (The Cleaners & Allied Independent Workers Union): ‘CAIWU is an independent workers union which is growing rapidly. We are organising those who work for cleaning contractors, along with workers across the service sector. When you are organised you are no longer a ‘vulnerable worker’, you don’t need to accept intimidation, abuses, low wages’

IWW (Industrial Workers of the World): ‘The IWW is a revolutionary global union, fighting for better conditions today and economic democracy tomorrow. By training our members in powerful organising methods, direct-action and direct-democracy, we put power in the hands of workers.’

Doing an internship? The TUC has a useful page called ‘Rights for Interns’:

Doing an apprenticeship? This is the TUC’s page regarding rights at work and joining a union:

Better than Zero Campaign

‘Better than Zero is the nationwide campaign against precarious work. Set up in 2015 by the Scottish Trade Union Congress, we take direct action against the most exploitative employers in Scotland in order to raise awareness of their ill-treatment of staff and train activists to organise their workplaces against exploitative working practices’

TUDA (Trade Union Disability Alliance)

TUDA ‘is an organisation of Disabled Trade Union Members. We are a campaigning group with individual members from over two dozen different Trade Unions. TUDA aims to: co-ordinate the perspective of Disabled people in the Trade Union movement; bridge the gap between the Trade Union and Disability movements; work within, and lobby, Trade Unions to ensure they make their own services accessible and relevant to Disabled Members; ensure that Trade Unions support our continuing campaign for full civil rights; promote understanding of disability as an equalities issues, giving talks and training to Trade Unions; work with Disabled people to persuade them of the benefits of Trade Union membership and activity’

National Shop Stewards Network

‘Initiated by the RMT in 2006, the Network has held eleven national conferences, each attracting hundreds of rank-and-file activists. The Network was initiated by the RMT and now also has national support from PCS, Unite, CWU, NUJ, NUM, POA, BFAWU, NAPO and FBU as well as many branches, trades councils, etc.’

Tenants’ Union (ACORN)

‘We are rooted in communities, uniting neighbours in ACORN local groups and city branches. Our members lead this organisation, identifying issues that affect them and planning campaigns and activities to resolve them. Many of the problems our people face are not unique to a particular town or neighbourhood and our national organisation enables us to work both locally or in combination across the country as needed and so tackle issues that affect us all’.

X:talk (sex worker-led co-operative)

‘The x:talk project is a sex worker-led workers co-operative which approaches language teaching as knowledge sharing between equals and regards the ability to communicate as a fundamental tool for sex workers to work in safer conditions, to organise and to socialise with each other’.

Migrants at Work

‘Migrant-led Community organisation working to protect and empower our community’.

Work Rights Centre (WoRC)

‘Work Rights Centre is a charity dedicated to tackling in-work poverty by helping UK and EU migrant workers exit poorly paid, unprotected, insecure employment’.

English Collective of Prostitutes

‘ECP is a network of sex workers working both on the streets and indoors campaigning for decriminalisation and safety. We fight against being treated like criminals. We’ve helped sex workers win against charges of soliciting, brothel-keeping & controlling – the last two most often used against women who are working together for safety’

SWARM (Sex Worker Advocacy and Resistance Movement)

‘SWARM is a sex worker led collective based in the UK. The project was founded in 2009 (under our former name Sex Worker Open University) to advocate for the rights of everyone who sells sexual services. Our goal is to build a diverse and inclusive community of sex workers who work together to improve our working conditions and resist violence’.

Psychologists for Social Change

‘One of our central missions has always been to encourage more psychologists to become involved in political and social action. To this end we have developed training for Clinical Psychology Trainees, spoken at conferences, and provided supervision for policy placements’

Focus on Labour Exploitation

‘FLEX has a vision of a world in which there is no human trafficking for labour exploitation. This means we work to prevent and address the exploitation of people working in the mainstream economy, such as in the construction, cleaning, agriculture, garment, manufacturing sectors and more. We do this by: highlighting labour abuses from lower level forms to the most severe cases, providing policymakers with clear, evidence-based strategies to prevent them, protecting and centring the rights of trafficked persons, promoting best practice responses to human trafficking’

Game Workers Unite UK (Union)

‘The Game Workers Unite UK branch of the IWGB is a worker-led, democratic trade union that represents and advocates for UK game workers’ rights. We seek to increase the quality of life for all game workers by campaigning to: End the institutionalised practice of excessive/unpaid overtime; Improve Diversity and Inclusion at all levels; Inform workers of their rights and support those who are abused, harassed, or need representation; Secure a steady and fair wage for all. We are also an affiliate national chapter of the global Game Workers Unite movement, which is dedicated to advocating for all game workers’ rights’.

Landworkers Alliance

‘We are a democratic member-led union, run by producers for producers. All our policies, representation and training comes from farmers, growers, foresters and land-based workers who have direct experiences of the issues we work on. We operate across the UK and are organised into branches and regions. The governance of the organisation is driven by a democratically elected coordinating group that aims to represent a balance of sectors and regions’.

Boycott Workfare

‘Boycott Workfare is a UK-wide campaign to end forced unpaid work for people who receive social security. We are a grassroots campaign, formed in 2010 by people with experience of workfare and those concerned about its impact. We expose the companies and organisations profiting from workfare and we take action against them. We encourage organisations to pledge to boycott workfare. We inform people of their rights at the jobcentre and we provide information to support claimants challenging workfare and sanctions’

Foster Care Workers’ Union

‘The union was formed in response to our lack of rights, inequality and a lack of a representative employment status. Also in response to the abuse many Foster Care Workers experience as a result of the current system. Carers currently feel they are gagged about their working conditions and exist in a climate of fear, unable to speak out against the abuses they experience’

Lift the ban – Campaign by Refugee Action

Right now, right here in the UK, people seeking refugee status are banned from working while they wait months, and often years, for a decision on their asylum claim. Instead, they are left to live on just £5.39 per day, struggling to support themselves and their families, whilst the Government wastes the talents of thousands of people‘.

Artists’ Union England

‘Our members work in disciplines including: Visual Art, Applied Arts, Socially Engaged Art, Moving Image, Sound and Performance’

United Strippers of the World

‘In 2018, strippers and other sex workers joined UVW to start organising together, and fight to change the industry from within. Stripping, like other forms of sex work in the UK, is legal, but workers have very few rights and protections at work. In particular, strippers are misclassified as self-employed/independent contractors, but must follow strict rules and forced to pay high ‘house fees’ to even work in clubs. Strippers have been exploited for ages and they have had enough!’

The Musicians’ Union 

‘We are the MU – a globally-respected organisation which represents over 32,000 musicians working right across the music industry. As well as negotiating on behalf of musicians with all the major employers in the industry; we provide advice, services and assistance tailored to each individual member. We are behind every musician – whether you are full time, part time, self-employed or a student musician’.

Equity Trade Union

‘We are actors, singers, dancers, designers, directors, stage managers, puppeteers, comedians, voice artists, and variety performers. We work on stage, on TV sets, on the catwalk, in film studios, in recording studios, in night clubs and in circus tents. Equity brings together entertainment professionals and ensures their demands are heard: whether these are for decent pay, better health and safety regulations, or more opportunities for all – regardless of gender, ethnicity, sexuality, disability or class.’

Designers + Cultural Workers’ Union

‘UVW’s Designers + Cultural Workers (UVW-DCW) is a cross-sector trade union organising isolated and groups of workers across the creative industries. Many of us are precarious, overworked and underpaid. We are made to compete against each other for jobs with no disclosed salaries, bad management and terrible conditions. As UVW-DCW, we educate members about our rights at work, secure legal representation for workers, and organise and campaign to transform our industry in the interest of its workers’.

Solidarity Economy – Oxford

We’ve been working with communities across the city to create a digital map of Oxford’s solidarity economy. We’re doing this because we want to: celebrate what’s happening in our communities; help local people find and support local projects and initiatives; and help projects and initiatives work together. We also hope to discover whether this mapping could be useful, and work for, other areas around the UK, and share what we learn with other people interested in doing the same thing. Our longer-term vision is also to show how the solidarity economy that exists in communities, cities and regions around the UK are part of a much bigger movement of people all over the world, all working to transform our economic system into one that works for everybody’.

Scottish Unemployed Workers’ Network

‘The Scottish Unemployed Workers’ Network (SUWN) is an independent organisation, founded in 2011, that combines campaigning with practical welfare work. We organise activity ourselves and also co-ordinate with other groups across Scotland and beyond. The unemployed are in the front line of the current attack on the poor that threatens to take us back to the ‘hungry Thirties’. We are part of the fightback. […] Our organisation is centred in Dundee, but we have also been active in other places. Most of our activists are themselves unemployed or on Employment and Support Allowance, or have been unemployed in the recent past. We encourage people we help to join our activities, so we also function as a self-help group. We organise informally through local meetings, through discussions after our stalls, and through social media’.

Benefits-related Forum

‘Respect and Support for People Claiming Welfare Benefits Self-help, information and advice on how to prevent and challenge benefit sanctions. Support with ESA, PIP claims, the work programme and other mandatory schemes’

Breakthrough UK (Greater Manchester)

‘In 1997, we set up as a disabled people’s led organisation, paving the way towards full employment rights and opportunities – because we were being denied employment and treated as second class citizens. We are working towards a future where society does not see the impairment before the person. We aim to envision meaningful jobs with fair pay that all people have an equal chance at getting, regardless of impairment. We work towards this though our co-produced services across Greater Manchester, supporting people to lead independent lives and to get into, stay in and progress in work. We do this to evidence that with the right approach it is entirely possible to remove all disabling barriers to employment’.

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