The TUC looks set to appoint its first ever female general secretary after Brendan Barber announced that he is to retire from the role at the end of the year.
Frances O’Grady, currently number two in the organisation, is thought to be the front runner for the post which will be decided at a meeting of the TUC’s executive in May.
Although she could theoretically face a challenge it is generally expected that she will be elected unopposed. Both Mr Barber and his predecessor John Monks had previously served in the deputy role.
Ms O’Grady, who was instrumental in the campaign to introduce the national minimum wage, will take over the organisation at a time of heightened industrial unrest.
Many of the planned public sector job cuts will take effect next year while a number of unions are still in dispute with the Government over pension reform.
Mr Barber, who held the top job for ten years, was respected by both Conservative and Labour ministers as an astute negotiator but also a moderate and an ‘honest broker’. Speaking yesterday he said he felt the time have come to step aside.
"The TUC has always been a powerful voice for the millions of ordinary people who depend on trade unions to better their lives and there is so much of our work over the years in which I take great pride,” he said.
“But I have every confidence that under new leadership the TUC can go from strength to strength.”
TUC president Paul Kenny said: "Brendan has made an immense contribution to the trade union movement and has been one of the most successful TUC general secretaries. I hope he will continue to make a huge contribution to the movement after he leaves the TUC. He will be duly honoured by affiliates at the Congress."