Our history

Our union has grown and changed over the course of the past century, adapting to the changing world of work and what our members want and need from their trade union. Community’s industrial roots can be found in towns and cities across the UK. Our approach to trade unionism comes from the lessons learned and the struggles fought in our industrial heartlands.

This timeline talks you through our story from the very start, from the formation of the unions that make up Community right up to the present day and our work to protect and support working people throughout their lives and as the world of work changes.

  • 1865 Power Loom Carpet Weavers’ and the Textile Workers’ Union are formed

    These unions would later join forces with the ISTC, one of Community’s founding unions.

  • 1874 Factory Acts brings in the ten hour working day

    This fell short of union demands for an eight hour working day. Following years of pressure and campaigning from unions, the eight hour working week became widely accepted. It is now enshrined in UK law through the 1998 Working Time Regulations.

  • 1885-1888 The three unions that would later become the Iron and Steel Trades Confederation are formed

    Two of the ISTC’s founding unions – the British Steel Smelters’ Association and the National Steel Workers’ Associated Engineering and Labour League are founded following strikes. Respectively, one to prevent workers being laid off which was successful, and the other for better pay which was unsuccessful.

  • 1890 NUDAGO is formed

    National Union of Domestic Appliances and General Operatives (NUDAGO), which later joined Community, is formed. The union is founded in 1890, following a successful strike in the light metal industry in Rotherham.

  • 1899 National League for the Blind and Disabled is founded

    The National League for the Blind and Disabled (NLBD) is founded in 1899 as the first organisation for disabled people in the UK. The NLBD has a strong record of political campaigning to win rights, recognition and support for disabled people. We continue to lobby and campaign on behalf of our disabled members today.

  • 1900 The Labour Party is founded

    Many of the founding unions of Community today were instrumental in the formation of the Labour Party. Community remains deeply committed to the Labour Party and the Party’s aims and values. We are one of twelve trade unions that are affiliated to the Labour Party, making up Labour Unions.

  • 1917 The Iron and Steel Trades Confederation is founded

    On 1st January 1917, the Iron and Steel Trades Confederation (ISTC) is founded as a result of the merger of existing steelworkers’ union

  • 1919 Forty Hours Strike and the Battle of George Square

    Striking workers demanding a 40 hour week are met by police, troops and tanks. This is also known as “Bloody Friday” or “Black Friday”.

  • 1930s The weekend is formally established

    We only have the weekend as we know it today as a result of almost 100 years of campaigning and lobbying by trade unions.

  • 1938 One weeks’ annual holiday established through the Holidays with Pay Act

    In the UK, the Holidays with Pay Act of 1938 gives those workers whose minimum rates of wages are fixed by trade boards, the right to one weeks’ holiday per year. This is the first law on paid leave in this country, but it falls short of the two weeks trade unions have been demanding since 1911 and does not cover all workers. Workers will wait until 1998 for the more robust legislation we know today to be brought in.

  • 1970 Professional Association of Teachers founded

    The Professional Association of Teachers (later Voice: The Union for Education Professionals) is founded.

  • 1970 Equal Pay Act brought in

    The Equal Pay Act 1970 is an attempt to equalise pay between men and women. It prohibits any less favourable treatment between men and women in terms of pay and conditions of employment. It has now been superseded by the Equality Act 2010.

  • 1974 Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974 is brought in

    You can trace the introduction of this important piece of legislation back almost 100 years to the factory act. However, it is argued that the Aberfan disaster where 166 children and 28 adults were killed as a result of the collapse of a colliery spoil tip, brought forward the regulations.

  • 1980s and 1990s Members of Community’s founding unions face large scale deindustrialisation

    Community members in steel, footwear and textiles face large scale deindustrialisation. The large scale de-industrialisation of the eighties and nineties that affected our founding unions members highlights the partnership approach we continue to uphold. We don’t just stand up for working people but for their industries and communities too. We help our members retrain and find new work and continue to represent them in new jobs and industries.

  • 1981 BUSWE is formed

    The British Union of Social Work Employees is formed.

  • 1991 KFAT is formed

    KFAT is formed as the National Union of Knitwear, Footwear and Apparel Trades. Through the amalgamation of the National Union of Hosiery and Knitwear Workers and the National Union of the Footwear, Leather and Allied Trades.

  • 1998 National Minimum Wage Act

    The Labour government bring in the National Minimum Wage Act and implement the EU Working Time Regulations. These changes meant workers could not be paid below a national standard and were granted 4 weeks annual leave.

  • 2000 ISTC grows as unions join forces

    The ISTC is joined by the Power Loom, Carpet Weavers and Textile Workers Union as well as the NLBD.

  • 2001 Maternity leave extended

    The government extends maternity leave to 26 weeks and increased maternity pay to £100 a week. The women members of KFAT play a huge role in securing modern maternity rights. In 2000 Harriet Harman in her frontbench role interviews women in KFAT about their experiences of being mothers in manufacturing. She visits six factories: R. Griggs & co, Loakes in Kettering, Courtaulds in Chesterfield, Pretty Polly in Sutton-in-Ashfield, Coats Viyella in Huthwaite and Burberry in Leicester. Many of the women struggle with trying to combine work with small children, returning to work after having their babies after only ten weeks. This leads to a major report on childcare called ‘Mothers in Manufacturing’ in which Harriet recommends maternity leave should be extended to a year, that maternity pay be increased to make this possible and that women should have the right to go back to work part-time after maternity leave.

  • 2003 Steelworkers begin fight for retrospective compensation after pension fund collapse

    When the pension fund for steelworkers at Allied Steel and Wire collapsed, the scheme members were left adrift. However, by joining together and with their unions support, they were able to secure compensation. Furthermore, after a battle between government and the steel unions at the European Court of Human Rights, the ‘Pension Protection Fund’ was included within the 2004 Pensions Bill which will protect workers pensions across the country for long into the future.

  • 2004 Community is formed

    Community is formed as the ISTC and KFAT join together. These two traditional unions had deep roots in communities across the UK, and today our union maintains that connection. We are a voice for those communities, not just the people still working in our traditional industries.

  • 2006 NUDAGO transfers into Community

    The National Union of Domestic Appliance and General Operatives (NUDAGO), the union for people manufacturing white goods, joins Community.

  • 2008 The British Union of Social Work Employees joins Community

    The British Union of Social Work Employees, which included NSPCC employees, makes the decision to be part of Community.

  • 2009 Save Our Steel campaign begins

    On Christmas Eve 2009 at Trinity church in North Ormesby the first Save Our Steel flag was raised. The campaign to save the Teeside steelworks was just beginning, and brought steelworkers from across the country together to campaign for the future of the industry. In 2016 when Tata announced the sale of the UK business, the campaign was reinvigorated. The campaign secured the future of the UK’s steel industry but steelworkers remain united and steadfast in their campaigning. Now the union highlights the importance of the industry through our campaign ‘Britain, we need our steel’.

  • 2010 The Equality Act is implemented

    The Labour government brings in the Equality Act. The Equality Act made it illegal for anyone to be discriminated against because of a ‘protected characteristic’. The protected characteristics are; age, gender reassignment, being married or in a civil partnership, being pregnant or on maternity leave, disability, race including colour, nationality, ethnic or national origin, religion or belief, sex and sexual orientation.

  • 2013 Prison Service Union transfer into Community

    Members of the Prison Service Union join Community in 2013. This means that Community now represents more people in privatised justice, custodial and immigration services than any other trade union.

  • 2017 UFS transfer takes place

    UFS transfers into Community in 2017. UFS was a finance and insurance union.

  • 2017 First priority campaign chosen

    At our biennial delegate conference, delegates choose our first priority campaign around mental health in the workplace. You can find out more about the campaign here.

  • 2018 The Commission on workers and technology is established

    Community joins forces with the Fabian Society to run a two year long project looking at the impact of automation and tech changes on the workforce. The Commission presented a series of recommendations, which you can see here.

  • 2019 Blue Chip Staff Association transfer takes place

    Members of the Blue Chip Staff Association (BCSA) transfer into Community. BCSA was a small general union, this transfer brings hundreds of members who work right across the economy into the Community family.

  • 2019 Skills and ending veteran homelessness campaigns launched

    At our biennial delegate conference, two priority campaigns are picked. One on skills and one on ending veteran homelessness. Later that same year, both campaigns are launched.

  • 2020 IDU and Voice transfer into Community family

    The Independent Democratic Union (IDU), made up of individual members from across the UK, and the recognised union amongst the workforce at the AA transfers into Community. The Voice transfer brings with it tens of thousands of members in the education and early years sector into Community.

  • 2021 Fire-and-rehire defeated at Clarks

    When Clarks attempted to fire their workers and rehire them on worse terms and conditions, Community members from across the UK came together to send a message that we wouldn’t accept it. As a result of the tireless efforts of our members at Clarks and the solidarity shown across the UK, the company reversed their decision. This was an extraordinary victory against despicable fire-and-rehire tactics.

At Community we are proud of our history, of what our founding unions achieved and what we have achieved since our formation in 2004. Our history has made us the union we are today and continues to shape our approach. Most importantly though, it teaches us that by working together we can achieve a better working world for everyone.


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