General Federation of Trade Unions and SOAS Launch New Economics Education Initiative


****EMBARGOED FOR 00.01 20 July 2024****

The General Federation of Trade Unions (GFTU) Educational Trust and the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS) will be launching a new partnership, supported by funding from Innovate UK. This collaboration, structured under the Knowledge Transfer Partnership (KTP) programme, will bring a range of new economics education to workers across the UK.

The partnership will draw on SOAS Economics Department’s cutting-edge work in the field of political economy and make this available to workers at all levels of the trade union movement through a range of new courses and educational materials. These will support core functions of organising and bargaining through developing a clear understanding of the economic basis of society.

GFTU and SOAS will be recruiting an associate in September 2024 to head up the new initiative.

Gawain Little, General Secretary of the GFTU, said: “For far too long, economics education has been neglected by the trade union movement and this has weakened unions industrially and politically. Our new programme will provide something for staff and activists at all levels of the trade union movement, from TU leaders shaping union strategy in a changing economy to workplace reps negotiating over pay and working conditions. We are incredibly pleased to be working with SOAS, a world-recognised centre for the study of political economy.”

Costas Lapavitsas, SOAS Professor of Economics, said: “The UK is about to engage in a profound shift in economic policy, strongly emphasising industrial policy. Universities and trade unions will have the opportunity to play a creative role in the new environment. SOAS is an international leader in political economy and has long experience in planning and executing economic policy. In collaboration with GFTU, a historic trade union federation, it will help to train staff and activists aiming to make a positive contribution to the changing economy.

Funded by Innovate UK, the KTP is designed to foster a productive collaboration between educational institutions and organisations to drive innovation. This initiative will not only develop cutting-edge educational approaches but will be a unique Trade Union / University collaboration which will strengthen the work of the trade union movement as a whole.

The long-term implications of this initiative are profound. By enhancing the economic literacy and capabilities of trade union members, the partnership is poised to contribute to more informed labour negotiations, better economic decision-making, and ultimately, a more equitable economic environment. This will support wider economic stability and growth, reflecting the role of well-educated trade unions in advancing the material interests of their members.

This partnership marks a significant step forward in GFTU Educational Trust's mission to become the preeminent provider of specialised economics training for trade unionists, setting a new standard for educational excellence and sustainability in the sector. It underscores the vital role of educational initiatives in achieving macroeconomic stability and growth.


Notes for Editors:

For media enquiries please email

About GFTU

Established in 1899 we’re currently celebrating our 125th anniversary. GFTU is a democratic organisation responsive to the needs of its 21 affiliated trade unions, representing over half a million trade union members. We provide high quality online and residential education via our Educational Trust and training centre in Quorn. We’re the home of Strike Map, a worker powered and funded map of industrial action in Great Britain and the island of Ireland.

About SOAS Economics

SOAS Economics offers real-world Economics teaching, grounded in a global perspective and concrete knowledge of the economies of the Global South, especially Africa, Asia and the Middle East, as well as expertise on Europe and Latin America.

Our programmes reflect the Department’s leading role in political economy and development economics, focusing on the challenges that economies are currently facing, including the cost-of-living crisis, climate justice, gender, race, and other socio-economic inequalities. Our research drives scholarship and policy in the UK and internationally.

GFTU Young Members’ Development Weekend Experience by SWU member

GFTU Young Members’ Development Weekend 2024

(Quorn Grange Hotel and training Centre, May 10-12)

I was uncertain about what to expect from a GFTU 3-day Young Members’ Development Weekend. The event started on Friday afternoon with an icebreaker activity, human bingo, which was a fast paced and engaging networking activity with a twist on the traditional bingo. Instead of marking off numbers, participants ask a variety of interesting questions designed to get to know other delegates/comrades.

Although I was the only member of the Social Workers’ Union, I found many people who worked or studied in similar fields. I met comrades from the Bakers’ Union, Pharmacists’, NAPO (Union for Probation and Family Court), and the Communication Union. Surprisingly, I even encountered a Baker Union leader, whom I met at a past social workers’ union conference, which was a pleasant surprise. An even nicer surprise was discovering that some facilitators and colleagues shared my native language.

The Banner Theatre entertained us with a combination of projections, spoken words, and music which was exhilarating, providing me with valuable insights. The performance drew a parallel between the historic struggles of the miners and the more recent wave of industrial action taken by Amazon workers, NHS staff and teachers as well as providing an international perspective, such as the Indian Farm Workers strike.

On Saturday morning, Ben and Steve shared their fascinating undercover mission called the London Recruits which involved young white British men in their 20s entering South Africa to smuggle in leaflets, explosives, and later weapons to fight the apartheid. They played an important role in the social and political changes in this country. I will carry forward a closing quote from Bob to guide my future in social work and active Trade Union participation: “Sometimes you win, sometimes you lose, but if you stay on the side lines, you never win.”

As an individual with a profound interest in Latin American culture and the political systems of non-European communist countries, I found the Cuban Delegates’ presentation particularly captivating. The opportunity to gain deeper insights into these areas from such an authority source was invaluable and highly informative.

The presentation explores how US politicians view the blockade. As a presentation went along, I began to grasp the US and Cuban sanctions and their negative impact on the economy and healthcare. It reminded me of the Eastern European communist system I observed growing up.

As a social work student, several details piqued my interest. For example, despite Cuba’s many restrictions, its education system is thriving. They have high achievers and 24 medical schools. Medical professionals in Cuba ensure that people receive free healthcare, including regular medical appointments such as cancer screenings and pregnancy examinations. If individuals do not attend these appointments, it is not uncommon for professionals to visit their homes.

The presentation followed by Quincy’s media session provided an excellent opportunity to harness our creative digital media skills and create an inspiring advertisement. It was a great exercise to enhance our creative digital skill. My group chose the theme “Cap on…” and, after an hour of focused work and some evening editing, our team produced a fantastic ad. The interactive media project truly brought our team together and showcased our collaborative spirit. Digital media skill application will come handy for active union members.

By Sunday morning, I was ready to check out and head home, positively exhausted from the enriching experience. However, it was time for the final session with Bianca, who shared the captivating story called “Dress Up Gardening Seed Project.” She delivered plant seeds to people, with a message to come to a dress up party. The gardening seed project was designed to bring communities together to a dress up party where there was a divide and tension amongst people. Bianca also challenged us to create a ‘Human Cradle Cat’ using our bodies instead of our fingers, adding a fun and unique twist to the day.

The closing activity, “Red or Blue”, was an absolute smash. At first glance, it seemed like a simple negotiation game. Our team initially aimed for the most peaceful solution for both sides, but it quickly turned into a fierce battle. Participants really got into the spirit of the game, making it feel like a genuine negotiation scenario. I found this game to be a brilliant tool for enhancing negotiation skills. These skills are essential not only for representing colleagues but also for frontline field practice and I believe social work students would greatly benefit from it.

The organisers facilitated a set of resources and activities which created a participative inclusive environment. They blended in with the audience and we were able to share with others in an active way. They successfully fostered camaraderie. We spent most of our free time socialising with young members and “young” organisers. The attendees had a wide range of experiences, from new union members like myself (Master’s student in social work), who is relatively new to the union. I felt like I absorbed a wealth of information.

What is more, to end on a most positive note, I was lucky to be one of the winners to receive full funding to attend the legendary Durham Miners’ Gala in July, along with other GFTU delegates.

Edith Till
Social Workers’ Union Student Member (University of Bedfordshire)

Look out for future Young Members’ Development Weekends here.

GFTU X Banner Theatre Partnership Press Release

GFTU X Banner Theatre Partnership Press Release

****EMBARGOED FOR 00.01 on 11 May 2024****

Today, the General Federation of Trade Unions (GFTU), a federation of multiple trade unions representing a combined 600,000 union members and Britain’s foremost workers theatre and music company, Banner Theatre, announce a new partnership.

This partnership is reflective of GFTU’s founding principles of education, solidarity, and unity and Banner Theatre’s commitment to prioritising working-class audiences and working with trade unions. Both are united in supporting the struggles of the working class and increasing awareness of, and generating action around, key social and political issues and trends.

Banner Theatre launch their latest project “Battle Lines” at the GFTU’s annual Young Members’ Development Weekend today, which links the historic struggles of the miners’ strike in 1984 to the battles of today, with songs and video from striking Amazon workers in Coventry and creative union battles in the global south, like the massive farmers struggle in India, which delivered the biggest general strike in trade union history. All tour dates can be seen here:

Banner Theatre is celebrating 50 years of taking to the stage next month. You can support their 50th anniversary crowdfunder here:

Gawain Little, General Secretary of the GFTU commented, “We are really pleased to be supporting this new production by Banner Theatre. We were founded on the principles of solidarity and unity in action. This show demonstrates these values in practice, connecting struggles across a 40-year time frame and educating a new generation about trade union struggle through the medium of real working-class voices and original music and lyrics. For us, this is a crucial part of our mission to promote working class arts and culture.”

Banner Theatre spokesperson said, “We are delighted to work with the GFTU, who are clearly committed to grassroots organisation and understand the power of culture for the workers movement. Their support in the Battle Lines project has ensured that we can creatively collaborate with workers in key struggles of the past, present and future”.


Notes for Editors:

For media enquiries please email:

Spokespeople are available for broadcast interviews.

About GFTU

The General Federation of Trade Unions was established in 1899 and is a democratic organisation responsive to the needs of affiliated trade unions. Like unions, we aim to improve the lives of working people and their communities.

Our federation of Trade Unions and the educational trust (GFTU ET) offers a range of support from; an exceptional programme of online and face to face trade union activist courses, leadership, and management training, to detailed campaigns, organising and specialist research support for all unions, to developing professional support for General Secretaries and other professional groups such as Finance and Education officers.

For more information, please go to:

About Banner Theatre

Banner Theatre is a Birmingham based multidisciplinary performing arts company with an unparalleled 50-year history of close collaboration with & representing the real lives of working-class people in struggle through: music, theatre, storytelling, oral history, interviews & video montage. For more information see

For more information, please go to:

GFTU Headquarters

86 Wood Lane,
LE12 8DB

T: 01509 410970

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T:01509 412167

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