Future unions: towards a membership renaissance in the private sector

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New research supported by a wide range of union leaders sets out a radical plan to reverse the decline in trade union membership and boost pay in the private sector. The 11-point plan is published by the Changing Work Centre, a joint initiative between the Fabian Society and Community union.

Private sector union membership is now less than a third of what it was in 1979 but new research shows that continued decline is not inevitable. A nationally representative survey of workers shows:

  • 3 in 5 (59 per cent) private sector workers believe that trade unions are necessary to protect working conditions

The projects focus group research with non-unionised young workers also found most people instinctively positive about unions, but a set of barriers need to be removed:

  • Many private sector workers think unions are not for me.
  • Unions feel distant from young private sector workers day-to-day experiences.
  • Unions have a diversity problem that is putting off prospective members.

Future Unions11-point plan, developed after interviews with leading trade unionists, includes:

  • New innovations, such as the provision of instant breakdown cover for workers with a pre-existing employment problem, changes to membership rate structures, and the development of new tools and apps to organise disparate workers.
  • A new clearing house role for the Trade Union Congress (TUC) in the 150thanniversary of its foundation.
  • A call for unions to be representative of the workforce they represent, with a challenge for unions to address diversity deficits in leadership teams.
  • The establishment of career development centres so unions can help people prepare for their future.

Future Unionsalso calls for a new partnership between government, business and unions to unlock productivity growth and improve work and wages for Britain’s workforce.

Download the full report here.