by Amy Jackson
Union Solidarity International, a brand new initiative to build links with trade unions and other organisations across the world, symbolically launches on Labour Day tomorrow. Using online tools and communication, USI aims to ‘ encourage links with trade unions and other organisations across the world based on thematic issues such as the financial crisis, global supply chains, industrial disputes, tax evasion and off-shoring providing a social-media glue for participating trade unions and networked organisations.’ As USI states on it’s website, ‘Trade unions know that it is increasingly difficult to maintain a strong media presence against the backdrop of the current economic, social and political conditions. New media give us an opportunity to bypass traditional media and speak directly with people with an interest in our point of view.’
Supporters of USI include major British trade unions such as Unite, GFTU, Thompson’s Solicitors, RMT and GMB. USI also has the official support of a number of Greek unions, such as UCBF, SEETH, SYPAM, and the Network of Precarious Workers and Unemployed. Their General Secretaries have offered their full support. Len McCluskey, General Secretary of Unite said, ‘Unite is proud to support USi. I believe it has the potential to involve trade unionists all over the world through social media. Unite looks forward to strengthening our internationalism with USi and it has our full support.’
In a time where trade unions and workers are being attacked by austerity drives across the world, organisations like USI are seriously in demand. Despite the fact USI doesn’t officially launch until tomorrow, they are not wasting any time. Campaigns are already under way, with issues ranging from ‘Solidarity with Greece’, domestic workers and brick kiln workers in India.
Our congratulations to USI for what promises to be an exciting and valuable contribution to the union movement, building grassroots international union solidarity.
You can join up to USI here, and follow them on Twitter at @USILive.
New election broadcast from Labour focusses on how families have been hit by Coalition’s policies – and stars that one from Homeland, David Harewood!
Yesterday, the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) released their annual report on trade union membership which is taken from the annual Labour Force Survey (LFS) in the final quarter of 2011. Carl Roper from the TUC blogged about the 2010 release here.
So, what were the figures and what do they mean for trade unions?
- Across the whole workforce, union membership fell by 143,000 despite an increase in private sector membership (up by 43,000), and now stands at 6.4 million. Union density (the percentage of workers who are union members) fell by 0.6% to 26%.
- 31.2 % of all employees were covered by a collective bargaining arrangement, up from 30.8% and unions are now present in 44.9% of workplaces , down from 46%.
Getting a bigger break down in terms of private/public sector, the figures look more like this:
- In the public sector, despite a membership fall of 186,000, union density rose by 0.2% to 56.5%; bargaining coverage rose by 3.3% to 67.8% and the amount of public sector workplaces where there is a trade union presence rose to 87.1% from 85.8%.
- In the private sector, membership rose by 43,000 but density fell by 0.1%; bargaining coverage has been maintained, staying steady at 16.9% and union presence in workplaces fell to 28.5% from 29.6%.
- In the male/female split, density remains higher amongst women employees (28.7%) than amongst male employees (23.4%).
These figures represent a mixed picture of decline and increase from the figures for 2010. And the points I’d raise on the initial analysis of the figures are:
- We are seeing a continued fall in total union membership. While the rise in private sector membership is welcome, total union membership continues to fall. However, unlike the 1980s and 1990s, this fall is much shallower and the differentials in decline are much less pronounced. The large decrease in membership should also be taken into the wider context of an overall loss of public sector jobs (369,000) in the same period.
- Decline in presence should be of concern for unions.
- The picture on union density is mixed. In 2011, overall density fell by 0.6% which is the norm since 1995 (it fell in all but three years). However, public sector density rose slightly which is the first increase since 2000 and even in the private sector, which saw a fall of 0.1%, saw its smallest decline since 2000.
- Collective bargaining has risen. The area where we had a real concern, saw a slight reversal of trend with the first increase in workers covered by collective agreements since 1998. This is great news but we need to keep this trend going up to have an impact on worker wages.
A mixed picture for us then with some positives which we didn’t have in 2010, but still one that shows that we need to work hard to continue to organise and unionise. Look out for postings over the next week from our union contributors to see what it means for their sectors and unions.
Becky Wright, Director, Organising Academy, TUC
Follow Becky on Twitter: @BeckyTUC
Becky also writes for Stronger Unions