Unions continue long-term decline

Share Article

Newly published figures from the Department for Business Innovation and Skills shows that trade unions in the UK are continuing to lose members and that last year the biggest decline was in the public sector. The Federation of European Employers (FedEE) reports

Most of their members do not belong to a union in order to further a particular cause or show “political solidarity”

Trade union membership in the UK dropped by 143,000 last year – the fourth successive year that a substantial decline has taken place. 6.4 million UK employees are now members of trade unions and union membership has fallen by over 50% since its peak in 1979.

2011 also marked an important turning point with the public sector accounting for all the decline in membership (there was, in fact, a slight increase in private-sector membership). In fact trade union membership has undergone a complete transformation over the last 30 years from its male manual-worker dominance to dominance by female professionals. 28.7% of female employees are now union members, compared to just 23.4% of male employees.

Commenting on the figures in the light of the wave of public service strikes today the Secretary-General of the Federation of European Employers (FedEE), Robin Chater, noted that ... “a high level of militancy is the biggest cause of union decline. That is why France has the lowest trade union density in Europe.”

He went on to suggest ...“What trade unions do not realise is that most of their members do not belong to a union in order to further a particular cause or show “political solidarity”. They see their union as an insurance policy if things go wrong in their own workplace. They are clear sighted enough to realise that strikes directed against austerity measures can only exacerbate the difficult economic circumstances that have necessitated the measures in the first place.”

His advice to unions is that ... “If they wish to remove the threat to their jobs they should be offering to assist with productivity improvements and an increase in morale - whilst pressing managements to use the resulting improvements to provide better service levels. In the public sector that would marshal public support and make it very difficult for politicians to reduce manpower, modify pension arrangements or continue to freeze public sector pay levels.”

What is FedEE?

The Federation of European Employers (FedEE) is the leading legal and economic think tank for multinational companies operating in Europe. It was founded in 1989 with assistance from the European Commission. It is a corporate member organization current Chaired by the HR Director of Ford Europe.

For further information and comment contact Alison Merrett on 0207 520 9264 or Alison.merrett(at)fedee(dot)com or Robin Chater directly on robin.chater(at)fedee(dot)com

Share article on social media or email:

View article via:

Pdf Print