More than a token gesture: NGOs and trade unions campaigning for a common cause

With the passage of the 1999 Asylum and Immigration Act in the UK, a system of vouchers for all new asylum seekers was to be introduced from April 2000. These vouchers were widely regarded as iniquitous in that they discriminated against an already vulnerable sector of society. A unique coalition between two NGOs (Oxfam GB and the Refugee Council) and a trade union (the Trade and General Workers' Union - TGWU) led to a concerted campaign against the voucher scheme that included a range of media work, political lobbying, and public awareness raising. The voucher scheme was eventually scrapped. This article draws various practical lessons on how to develop successful collaborative relationships across different social sectors. The author concludes that the principal lesson is not that NGOs must work with trade unions, but that by working with others, united by a common goal, they can challenge injustice effectively and make a difference to people's lives.