Lack of benefits sees fall in union numbers

Union membership has dropped by a third in the last 18 years, despite their
recent surge in activity.

A report by experts from the London School of Economics and the Policies
Studies Institute reveals that just under a third of employees are currently
union members, compared to 49 per cent in 1983.

The study, British Social Attitudes: the 19th report, finds that one of the
reasons for the drop in unionisation is that the benefits of membership may
have declined.

Traditionally, a key benefit has been the role trade unions play in
negotiating higher than average wages for their members but the gap between
members and non-members pay has declined since the mid-1990s.

The report also claims about a third of the decrease in membership is
accounted for by the fact there are more jobs in areas that are traditionally
less unionised.

Alex Bryson, one of the authors of the report, said: "The analysis
gives some insight into the reasons for decline in unionisation in Britain over
the last two decades – a decline that is unprecedented in the post-war period.
The analysis suggests we have not seen the end of the decline," he added.

But Bryson also stresses that the research finds that unions should not be
written off.

"There remains substantial support for unionisation among workers in
Britain and most unions are viewed positively by their members.

"The challenge for unions is convincing employers to view them more
positively and to convert positive attitudes towards unions among workers into
paid-up membership," he said.

The study reveals that the number of employees working in unionised
workplaces has fallen from 64 per cent in the early 1980s to 47 per cent now.

By Ben Willmott

Case study: Telegraph Group
Casual staff win right to vote on recognition

Journalists on casual and fixed-term
contracts at the Telegraph Group have won the right to take part in a ballot on
union recognition, following a ruling by the Central Arbitration Committee

The CAC ruled in favour of the National Union of Journalists
that all journalists, whether casual, fixed-term or permanent, should be part
of the same bargaining unit, and so have their pay rates set by the same
negotiation process.

As a result of the CAC ruling, casual and fixed-term
journalists will take part in an NUJ ballot for recognition at the Telegraph in
the next few weeks.

The decision is a boost to the employment rights of fixed-term
and casual journalists in the publishing industry.

The company had claimed there were significant differences
between casual and fixed-term journalists and those on permanent contracts.

Jeremy Dear, NUJ general secretary, said: "This is a significant
victory for the employment rights of journalists employed on casual and
fixed-term contracts.

"Publishers are increasingly using such contracts to
employ journalists and it is making the lives and careers of our members
extremely insecure. It is bad enough that an employer can use fixed-term
contracts to avoid certain legal commitments, such as redundancy payments. Why
should it also allow them to treat such staff differently when it comes to
setting their rates of pay?"

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