Your browser is no longer supported

For the best possible experience using our website we recommend you upgrade to a newer version or another browser.

Your browser appears to have cookies disabled. For the best experience of this website, please enable cookies in your browser

We'll assume we have your consent to use cookies, for example so you won't need to log in each time you visit our site.
Learn more


  • Comment
'Trade Unionists Today', the latest annual report by the TUC based on analysis of the Labour Force Survey is publis...
'Trade Unionists Today', the latest annual report by the TUC based on analysis of the Labour Force Survey is published today. This third report is based on figures for autumn 1996.

The report shows that just under a third of all employees - 6.9 million - are union members. Most work full time (5.8 million), with only 1.1 million working part-time. Women now make up a much larger proportion of union members but just over half are men - 3.8 million.

More than four in ten (41 per cent) union members are managers, professionals (such as teachers and doctors), and associate professionals (such as social workers and nurses) - while only 13 per cent are plant and machine operatives and just three per cent are sales workers.

The north-south divide lives on in terms of union membership by region. More than four in ten people in the North of England and Wales are union members (42 per cent and 41 per cent respectively) compared with less than a quarter - only 23 per cent - of people living in the South East, excluding Greater London.

Once again, the analysis provides clear evidence that unionisation promotes positive flexibility in today's insecure jobs market. Unionisation is relatively high and has increased among flexible workers - between 45 and 51 per cent of people in annualised hours contracts and those working flexitime, nine-day fortnights and term time working are union members. This is up from between 43 and 50 per cent the previous year. Over a third of job sharers are union members, compared with one in five part-time workers.

'Trade Unionists Today' also reveals that 46 per cent of all employees (10.1 million) work in recognised workplaces. And 8.1 million of these are covered by collective bargaining - 37 per cent of all employees. This relatively low collective bargaining figure is partly explained by the fact that employees in smaller workplaces which form part of larger firms may be unaware of the extent of collective bargaining coverage because it takes place at a higher level within the organisation.

Unions are also good for job stability. Union members tend to work in jobs for longer - 12 per cent of people who have been in their present job for less than a year are union members but that rises to 23 per cent of people who have been in their current job for between two and five years and to 37 per cent for those who have been in their current job for between five and ten years.

TUC General Secretary John Monks said:

'Here is more clear evidence that modern trade unions are good for all people at work - labourers and lawyers, dockers and dentists, and technicians and teachers.

'We have a strong role to play in making sure that flexibility cuts both ways and is not just a euphemism for employers' hire and fire attitudes.

'But we must get this message across loud and clear to more workers in today's insecure jobs market. We need to reach more part-timers, more young people and more women, and to reach into difficult to organise areas such as smaller workplaces and the private sector. This is precisely the challenge today's trade unions are beginning to meet as part of the TUC's New Unionism project.

'We also know that fear of reprisal by the boss prevents many people from joining a union. The Labour government's commitment to introducing a legal right to union recognition where a majority of the workforce want it will change that.'


All figures and percentages are from the Labour Force Survey in Autumn 1996

-- just under 6.9 million (31 per cent) employees are union members - 5.8 million full time workers and 1.1 million part time workers.

-- over a third (35 per cent) of all full-time and 20 per cent of all part-time employees are union members.

-- just under 3.8 million male employees and just over 3.1 million women employees are members. Over half of union members (55 per cent) are men while 45 per cent are women.

-- the North-South divide still exists. More people living in the North of England (42 per cent) and in Wales (41 per cent) are union members than in the South East of England excluding Greater London (23 per cent).

-- managers, professionals (eg doctors, teachers, lawyers) and associate professionals (eg nurses, social workers and technicians) make up 41 per cent of union members.

-- the most highly unionised occupations are professional (52 per cent) and associate professional (47 per cent). The least unionised is sales (11 per cent).

-- unionisation is higher and varies less within the public sector than in the rest of the economy. The public sector average unionisation rate is 61 per cent compared to a private sector figure of 21 per cent. Within the public sector, postal services (80 per cent) and transport and communication (79 per cent) are the most unionised and higher education is the least unionised (48 per cent).

-- in the private sector, the rail transport industry is the most unionised (74 per cent ). The least unionised is hotels and restaurants (just 5 per cent).

-- 10.1 million (just under 46 per cent) of all employees work in unionised workplaces. Of these, 8.1 million (37 per cent of all employees) are covered by collective bargaining.

  • Comment

Have your say

You must sign in to make a comment

Please remember that the submission of any material is governed by our Terms and Conditions and by submitting material you confirm your agreement to these Terms and Conditions.

Links may be included in your comments but HTML is not permitted.