2.6 million reasons to be afraid in 2007

The UK’s first super-union since the 1970s will come into being in January 2007, Personnel Today can exclusively reveal.

Negotiators from the Transport and General Workers’ union (T&G), Amicus and the GMB have agreed the start date for the formation of a 2.6 million member organisation.

The formal position of the three unions is that negotiations are still in the early stages. However, two well-placed union sources have confirmed to Personnel Today that the general secretaries of the unions are committed to the beginning of 2007 for the official launch of the super-union.

“This is going to happen and, bar some unforeseen crisis, it’s going to be at the earlier end of expectations,” said one source.
A majority of Personnel Today readers, responding to a poll on PersonnelToday.com, said they were ‘concerned’ by the creation of a super union and a quarter were ‘very concerned’.

Before the final decision is taken, all three unions will have to approve the merger at their conferences, before balloting members individually.

At present Amicus claims to have 1.2 million members, the T&G 835,000 and the GMB 600,000, although there is some dispute over the accuracy of these figures.

The move to form the super-union puts a question mark over the future of the TUC as an umbrella body for union activities. It will mean that of the 6.5 million trade unionists affiliated to the TUC in 67 different unions, more than a third will be drawn from one single organisation.

The source said: “It’s no secret that some unions have been unhappy with the direction in which the TUC has led the labour movement and its close relations with the government.

“A merged union will be too big for the TUC and may seek to challenge the TUC for the leadership of the movement.”

Tony Woodley, general secretary of the T&G, and Derek Simpson, general secretary of Amicus, have in the past criticised the stance the TUC has taken on issues such as partnership with employers.

HR perspective

The merger of three trade unions into one super-union will be a huge task, with HR actively involved, according to the Transport & General Workers’ Union HR director, Ray Fletcher.

Fletcher, who joined the union in June, said once progress had been made with the initial discussions he expected to be “right at the centre” of the merger.

“I suspect there will be issues we need to address quite quickly relating to the geographical spread of the new union as [currently] all three unions have different regional boundaries,” he said.

“I anticipate too that we will need to look jointly at pay and support structures in administrative areas, as well as HR policies and philosophies.”
For a full interview with Ray Fletcher see next week’s issue of Personnel Today.

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