The Alex Ferry Foundation, a new UK grant-making organisation, has publicly launched and is now fully operational.

Its establishment marks one of the most significant sums in the UK ever made available for the benefit of lay members of trade unions and their direct communities.

The Foundation was created with assets from a fund established in 1989 to provide financial support to workers in shipbuilding, engineering and manufacturing industries who were engaged in industrial action aimed at shortening the working week.

It is estimated that around 200,000 trade union members contributed to the fund, with their contributions constituting the vast majority of donations.

Following the conclusion of the initial campaign and industrial action, a surplus was left in the fund which over time, has increased very considerably and now provides the Alex Ferry Foundation with its endowment.

The Foundation’s governance structure, which was approved by a 2018 High Court of Justice ruling, requires that all trustees (except an independent Chair of the Board) be trade union officers or lay shop stewards.

Martyn Evans Independent Chair of the Board of Trustees of the Foundation said:

“It is a great privilege to be invited to Chair this exciting new Foundation. I want to bring the philanthropic foundation sector closer to the trade union movement, recognising both as key players in maintaining an effective and dynamic civil society. During our first three years, we will focus on making grants to support local communities and on research to influence public opinion and policy. We are piloting a community grant-making programme, and a number of research projects on issues relating to work are in development.

Key figures from both philanthropy and trade unions welcomed this announcement:

Diana Holland Assistant General Secretary Unite the union, said:

“The launch of the Alex Ferry Foundation is a proud moment. Its origins at the forefront of the trade union struggle for shorter working time changed lives for the better. Today, rooted in the communities it is established to serve, the Alex Ferry Foundation will not only keep these proud traditions alive, but also ensure the link up with new generations and today’s struggles over the future of work and a better life for all.”

Paul Ramsbottom, CEO, Wolfson Foundation, said

“I warmly welcome the launch of the Alex Ferry Foundation. It is extremely timely given current debates about the future shape of British manufacturing and the impact developments may have on workers. And it is inspiring to see a philanthropic organisation helping to forge links between the trade union movement and wider civil society – whilst rooting its decision-making in local communities. Knowing (and admiring) the individuals involved in its leadership, I have no doubt that it will be a powerful and influential force for good.”

Paul Nowak, Deputy General Secretary, TUC, said:

“Underpinned by the financial contributions made by union members across the shipbuilding and engineering sectors, the Alex Ferry Foundation looks poised to play a vital role in improving the lives of ALL working people. Putting the issues that matter to working people, their families and communities at the heart of its agenda, the Foundation will help us shape the future world of work, and the TUC looks forward to working closely with the Foundation over the coming years.”

Carol Mack, Chief Executive, ACF, said:

“I am thrilled to welcome the Alex Ferry Foundation as one of the newest members of the Association of Charitable Foundations. The Foundation’s origins and purpose give it a unique place in civil society and offer an exciting new model for philanthropy in the 21st century. I look forward to seeing the impact that the foundation will undoubtedly have in support of the individuals and communities it seeks to serve.”