Guilds versus Trades Unionism

The Bellwether
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The future for the working person is in Guilds not Trade Unions.

It seems clear to me (as your bellwether), following the UK General Election and the catastrophic vote losses suffered by Labour, a political party backed and funded by ‘The Trade Unions’ and ostensibly representing the ‘working class’, that the time has now come to look again at Guilds and their potential value for modern societal and future labour force organisation.

Why am I going on about Guilds? Surely, it is an outdated concept from the Middle Ages? A concept that often led to actual warfare between Italian regions. A concept that has fostered legends about rumoured secret societies, and Masonic cults especially in the police force or military; suspicions that may be well founded.

Trade Unionism is dead. Trade Unions have become political entities that are ladders for self serving careerists who have never engaged in the actual trade that the union is supposed to represent. Moreover, modern Trade Unions (in the UK) have amalgamated to attempt to represent many different and various trades and work types which bare little or no resemblance to what they were originally set up for. They have become political. They are integral to the UK Labour Party that is mostly comprised of ‘members’ who have never ‘laboured’ a days works in their lives or who support it because of promised ‘entitlements’ and benefits – if elected. Has Jeremy Corbyn ever done a days work in an actual trade? Digging an allotment doesn’t count. Has Len McCluskey?


What are Guilds? The original definition of guild is an association of artisans or merchants who oversee the practice of their craft/trade in a particular area. In medieval cities, craftsmen formed associations based on their trades, confraternities of textile workers, masons, carpenters, carvers, glass workers, each of whom controlled secrets of traditionally imparted technology, the “arts” or “mysteries” of their tradecrafts. Usually the founders were free independent master craftsmen who hired apprentices.

In order to become a Master, a journeyman/woman would have to go on an apprenticeship called journeyman years.


The world of work has changed. The advent of the internet and artificial intelligence (AI) will shortly mean the end of work and most careers as we have known it. Therefore, people must organise in order to protect themselves, their families and means of earning money in order to function in society and to protect themselves against political neocons and predatory global corporations now beyond the reach of government control or regulation.

I propose below new (neo)guilds for the modern world of work where protections and representations for the workers and practitioners supplants the trade unions that are either non-existant or ineffectual.

SciGuild. Science workers.

Scientists are being ripped off, and exploited as never before. Contracts of work as an industrial scientist or a researcher in academia specifically deprive and exclude them from the benefits or profits of their intellectual property (IP). In SciGuild,  in return for dispute representation, money and terms negotiation members will allocate IP rights to the Guild who will make patent applications etc on their behalf. This way IP will not be undersold or ripped off by employers and the named inventor retained.

GuildIT. Tech workers.

‘Techies’ currently have no support or representation at all from trade unions. Negotiation of pay or conditions is done individually even within government or corporate environments. It is every person for themselves. Guild membership would provide structure, career path and representation.

FinGuild. Finance and banking workers

The advent of cryptocurrencies and the migration of most financial services and banking online means that people involved in this will operate from remote call centres. There will no longer be localised banking services and even cash is likely to disappear (or go underground). FinGuild membership will represent and regulate people involved in this.

MediaGuild. Press, media workers.

The battle for who controls the Media, Journalism and News in the Internet dominated mediascape will continue for the foreseeable future. Guild membership and structural control is one way of shielding and promoting journalists and other media workers.

HealthGuild. Doctors and nurses.

Health workers have to undergo long and extensive training and apprenticeships before being let loose on patients. The organisation and protection of health workers including doctors, dentists and surgeons.

There are many other ‘walks of life’ which could be organised into guild format. For your entertainment see below for the movie Dune which first described space/dimension  navigators and pilots organised into a powerful Guild!

A Good Story

Our Editor Phil Parry’s memories of his extraordinary  award-winning career in journalism as he was gripped by the incurable disabling condition Hereditary Spastic Paraplegia (HSP), are told in his new book ‘A GOOD STORY’. Order the book now!


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