Taj by the General Council on the final morning of the 145th Congress and takes over from Lesley Mercer.
Taj has worked in public transport since 1974 when he started working for Bradford City Transport as a bus conductor.
He first got involved with the Transport and General Workers Union – now part of Unite – when he began to investigate complaints that Asian workers had to pay a bribe to corrupt union officials and managers before they could get work on the buses.
As a result of his work into unjust practices throughout the company, there was a court case and several people went to prison. In 1982 Taj was elected as the T&G’s shop steward at the company, and ten years later became a worker director for the whole of West Yorkshire and sat on the company board.
In the late 1980s unions were beginning to look at how they might do more to better represent workers from black and Asian communities, and Taj was elected chair of the T&G’s national black, Asian and ethnic minorities committee and sat on the executive council of the union. Taj has been on the TUC’s General Council since 2001.
In 1995 following the riots in Bradford – which erupted following long-running tensions between the police and local Asian youths – Taj served as part of the commission set up to look into the underlying causes of the violence. A year later Taj went back to being a bus driver and once again worked on many of the routes serving the towns and cities in West Yorkshire.
He is now based in Unite’s branch office of First in Bradford office and is responsible for looking after the interests of the 650 employees who work as cleaners, engineers, clerical staff and drivers for First West Yorkshire.
Commenting on his election as TUC President, Taj, said: ‘I am proud to have come from lay membership level and be the first Muslim and the first Asian President of the TUC.
‘During my year as President I’m keen to reach out to trade unionists in the Arab world – in places like Tunisia, Egypt and Iraq – where people are living and working in extremely dangerous and unstable situations, and help them build, strong, independent and democratic unions.
‘Protecting the NHS and campaigning against government policies – which have seen the increasing involvement of the private sector, and where more and more profit is being put before patient care – will also be one of my priorities. In the early 1960s my father came to the UK for treatment. He was suffering from TB, and couldn’t afford treatment back in Kashmir where we were living at the time. Quite simply the NHS saved my father’s life.
‘I’m also keen during my presidential year to highlight the distress being felt by families across the country as people struggle to cope with the fallout from the living standards crisis. As we see the first tentative signs of economic recovery, we must ensure that ordinary people too can share in the rewards that growth will eventually bring.’
Taj, 61, is married to Naseem with two children and two grandchildren. And he is a great guy and a fine trade unionist.