In the 1980s trade unions developed a policy commitment to the unemployed, but research suggests that unions are seen solely as organisations for people in work. What benefits and services can trade unions usefully provide for the unemployed? How can trade union provision for the unemployed be improved? What organisational structures might be developed for the unemployed? These are the questions that this article attempts to address. Providing job information, retraining and legal services appear to be the most promising way forward. Moreover, there is support among the unemployed for these to be provided within a trade union context. However, finance is a problem because the unemployed cannot pay for what they receive. Unions should see provision for the unemployed as an investment in goodwill which is likely to have a pay‐off in terms of future membership stability and strength.
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