Unions In The Hostile Environment – A Response

So, co-inciding perfectly with the TUC’s 150th birthday celebrations, the latest stats on union membership arrive, and Becky, Jane Holgate and I lost no time in dissecting them on the latest unions 21 podcast.

The stats themselves show a net gain in union membership of 19,000 in 2017 to stand at 6.2 million– but as the numbers employed also rose, the density level fell from by 0.3% to 23.2%.  Women are more likely than men to me members (25.6% to 20.9%). 70,000 members were gained in the private sector, but density in the manufacturing industry has fallen to just 17.6% (it was 32.8% in 1995).

Other stand-out figures are that;

  • 2% of private sector employees are covered by a collective agreement, as opposed to 57.6% in the public sector – but the public-sector accounts for less than 20% of all workers.
  • Only 14.8% of union members have no formal qualifications, compared with 59.3% with a degree or HE certificate.
  • Just short of 40% of union members in 2017 were over 50 – but only 29% of employees were.
  • Only 14% of workplaces with less than 50 employees have a collective agreement on pay and conditions – but 36.6% of workplaces with more than 50 employees do. So size matters – but 96% of UK firms are micro-employers with less than 10 workers.

Jane is probably the country’s leading academic expert on community-based organising, so in the podcast, we discuss how that differs from industrial or workplace organising, and what needs to happen to get union membership levels and dentistry rising again.

We touch on the success of Uni Global Union’s Italian affiliate in getting a landmark first-ever deal with Amazon, and ask what we can learn from them?  Can work in schools lay a foundation of trade union awareness amongst the young? And who would Jane direct us to, in terms of the best and brightest new thinkers on unions both here and abroad?

You’ll have to listen to the latest Unions21 podcast, supported kindly by the University of Glasgow, to find out! Go to the Unions21 site or the podbean platform or iTunes – search “unions21”

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