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About Victorian Trades Hall Council

Welcome to Victorian Trades Hall Council, the peak body for the union movement in Victoria. 

Trades Hall 1889

 

We organise for a just and equitable Victoria where all people are respected and valued, and all working people are organised, safe, and winning at work. 

Solidarity Statement

We are union.
We stand united as part of a great movement of workers.
Our diversity is our strength
Our solidarity is our power
We respect and take care of each other.
Prejudice and discrimination – including misogyny, racism, homophobia and all other hatreds have no place in
our movement. We rise together. Today and every day we commit ourselves to achieving justice, fairness, equality
and dignity for all workers.
Solidarity forever.

Victorian Trades Hall Council is the voice of Victorians at work. We are an organising movement; coordinating the efforts of 41 affiliated unions and over 500,000 Victorian union members. Victorian Trades Hall Council is the decision making body of the Victorian union movement. A representative elected Executive Council meets monthly, but day to day campaigns, policy, and events are managed by the Secretary and two Assistant Secretaries who are elected by VTHC delegates.

Our Trades Hall is the oldest State Trades and Labour Council, and pre-dates our Federal union peak body, the Australian Council of Trade Unions. Trades Hall also coordinates with several Regional Trades and Labour Councils acting locally in Victoria’s regional centres.

"THE position of the trades unions in Melbourne has long been one to excite envy, and a spirit of emulation in the brethren all over the continent of Australia and in Great Britain. Nowhere... have greater results or a more compact or powerful organisation been achieved. The central body, which forms a kind of parliament of all these trade unions, is called the Trades Hall Council."

-The Barrier miner. Broken Hill, NSW. Thursday 2 January 1890

Our work

The Victorian Trades Hall Council helps organise activities and campaigns with and on behalf of affiliated unions. Some of the work Trades Hall is regularly involved in includes:

  • Lobbying State parliament on legislation that affects the lives of working Victorians.
  • Coordinating Victorian campaigns on industrial, political and social issues.
  • Organising large rallies, marches, protests and other public events.
  • Providing strategic advice and support for unions on individual campaigns.
  • Communicating with the public and media about trade union issues.

The best way to find out how we work is to get involved in our campaigns!

 

Our building

Victoria’s Trades Hall, rising grandly from the northern edge of the Melbourne CBD, is a national treasure and a symbol of the aspirations of the Australian people. For over 150 years the Trades Hall building has given form to dreams of a better life for working people and their families. It is not only the birthplace of organised labour in Australia, but also of Victorian Labor and the Australian Council of Trade Unions.

After the successful Eight Hour Day campaign of 1856, it was decided that a ‘People’s Palace’ should be built as a monument to this victory and also as a forum for all union concerns. 

The first Trades Hall building, a modest timber structure that once stood just north of the current Lygon Street entrance, opened in 1859. It was financed by workers and built by their own labour, using local materials where possible.

In the early 1870s, plans were developed for a more substantial building. The foundation stone of the present building, designed by prominent architect Joseph Reed, was laid on 26 January 1874. Trades Hall became the headquarters for Victorian unions and was substantially extended during the 1880s as unions continued to grow.

Following the 1882 Tailoresses Strike, Trades Hall leaders also requested 14 acres of land in Lygon Street for what became the Female Operatives Hall. At the time, women were organising in amazing numbers, and in their own separate unions. These unions amalgamated with men's unions over time. The female operatives hall was demolished in 1960.

Trades Hall as we now know it was built in stages from 1874 to 1925, by the architectural firm Reed & Barnes (who also designed the Exhibition Building, Melbourne Library, Melbourne Town Hall and Rippon Lea). A multi-story extension was added in 1961.

As public awareness of our rich industrial and political heritage grows, so to does the interest in Trades Hall and other such monuments to the past battles for workers’ rights. The heritage value of this rare surviving structure, and the associated 8 Hour Day Monument, has been recognised by their inclusion on the Register of the National Trust and the Historic Buildings Register.

For more on our building's history, visit the Workers' Museum

We Volunteers

We Are Union. We are a movement of people standing together for a just and equitable Victoria where:

  • all people are respected and valued, 
  • all working people are organised, safe, and winning at work


We organise our communities to build support for union, industrial, and social campaigns, and we're excited to have you on board.