Trade union membership figures are set to receive a massive boost after the GMB announced last week that it was joining forces with the Polish union, Solidarity (Solidarnosc).
Polish workers who want to migrate to the UK will be invited to join the GMB and be informed of UK employment rights before they leave their home country.
Overall, union membership in the UK fell by 119,000 to 6.39 million in 2005. Only 28.8% of UK workers were registered as trade union members in 2004, compared with 35.5% in 1993.
But the link-up between GMB, which represents more than 600,000 workers, and Solidarity, with 1.2 million members – along with the prospect of a super-union between Amicus and the Transport and General Workers Union (T&G) – indicates the movement is gaining pace again.
Amicus and the T&G have also signed agreements with three international unions and are preparing to ballot almost two million members for a merger in May 2007.
Paul Kenny, GMB general secretary, said the agreement with Solidarity was the start of a wider European co-operation. “GMB will undertake a major drive to make contact with the Polish migrant workers in Britain,” he said.
Amicus’ general secretary, Derek Simpson, said: “I envisage a functioning, if loosely federal, multinational trade union organisation within 10 years.”