Current and forthcoming courses

You are here

Back to top

Online Course - Trade Unions, Class & Power commencing 6 June

This eight-week course seeks to understand trade unions as operating today and does so within a historical perspective of the past century. It examines why people join trade unions, why they become active trade unionists and what determines the effectiveness of trade unions in representing the interests of their members.

The course seeks to answer these questions within the wider context of Britain as a class society and with an understanding of the process by which the exploitation of wage labour takes place.

Using historical examples, it examines those occasions when the trade union movement has been able to achieve major victories for working people – as well as the tactics of employers and governments in seeking to reverse these victories.

The course provides participants with online materials, asks for written on-line responses as the basis for weekly on-line discussion and is supplemented by four fortnightly zoom discussions led by the tutors.

The course is based on the principle of mutual learning from participants drawn from a range of occupations, age groups and levels of experience.

Participants can take part (apart from the supplementary zoom discussions) at times of their own choosing.

By the end of the course you should be able to demonstrate

· Greater knowledge of the origins of the trade union movement

· The relationship between trade union organisation and class organisation

· How trade unions have transformed the balance of power in capitalist societies

· How capitalist societies have sought to control and neutralise trade unions

· The new challenges facing trade unionists today

The four classes are:

1. What are trade unions for and how do Marxists understand their role?

2. How do trade unions exercise political and economic power in capitalist society and do they still have power in contemporary Britain?

3. Lessons from the past: how trade unions have previously transformed politics; how our ruling class has sought to challenge and reverse these political gains

4. How can trade unions rebuild their economic and political power today and roll back the dominance of big business ?



Women, Work and Trade Unions


This course comprises 4 online sessions taking place weekly on Tuesday evenings, 7-9pm. 

Course tutors: Mary Davis, Kellie O’Dowd

The course is rooted in an understanding of women’s role in trade union history and the impact on women workers of the enduring conflict between capital and labour.

The course will look at:

• How do we explain inequality?

• What is capitalism and why do Marxists say it’s important for understanding of women’s oppression?

• What can we learn from history? Women in the labour market and labour movement in C19th & C20th.

• The issues for women at work & in our unions today & what we can do about them.

By the end of the course students will:

• Have gained an understanding of the role of the labour movement as a key site in the struggle for women’s liberation.

• Have understood the position of women in capitalist society and assessed the historical gains and enduring problems facing women today.

• Have examined and assessed contemporary ideas about the persistence of inequality.

• Have been introduced to how a Marxist analysis of class exploitation can assist in understanding the oppression of women.

• Have been introduced to the history of women at work and in the trade union movement.

• Have examined how unions’ capacity for collective struggle and collective bargaining can be used to address women’s discrimination and its manifestation in the trade union movement and in the workplace.