Rip-off money lenders are to face a new trade union challenge to their exploitation of poverty.
Unite, Britain's biggest union, launched its own credit union yesterday - a small not-for-profit bank owned co-operatively and run by the people who invest in and borrow from it.
Credit unions offer small loans at low interest rates to members.
The launch at Unite's sector conference in Brighton comes hot on the heels of Unison's creation of a nationwide network of credit unions, with more than 40 signed up to work with the union to help struggling low-paid members.
Unite says its credit union "is a clear challenge to payday lenders and others trying to make profits out of ordinary people's financial hardship."
Services will include payday loans - but at low rates as opposed to the predatory rates of 3,000 per cent or more charged by private lenders.
"We are determined to wipe out rip-off payday lenders and ensure that they can't make profits by exploiting victims of the financial downturn," said general secretary Len McCluskey.
"Unite's new credit union service ensures our members can access finance without fear and helps keep them out of the clutches of parasitic lenders.
"While the government stands on the sidelines and allows the quiet crisis to intensify, Unite is taking firm action - fighting for better wages and conditions in the workplace, while offering members a new credit union service that puts them and their families first.
"This is a clear embodiment of Unite's values."
In Canada, the United States and Ireland credit union have millions of members and are an alternative not only to payday loan sharks but also to high street banks.
Dozens of small, mainly community-based credit unions exist in Britain, though they have never grown the way they have in Ireland and north America.
Britain's largest is the Glasgow Credit Union, which has 32,000 members and over £100 million in savings from people who live or work in the city.
nUnite members can find out more by calling 03330 110-450 or visiting unitetheunion.org/creditunion.
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