Trade union membership continues to fall

The number of people in work who are union members fell slightly last year, official figures have revealed.

Statistics released by the Department for Business showed the rate of union membership (union density) for employees in the UK fell by 0.3 percentage points in 2007, down from 28.3% in 2006 to 28% in 2007.

Trade union density in the UK has now fallen by 4.5 percentage points since 1995.

For the sixth consecutive year, a higher proportion of women than men were trade union members. Union density among women was 29.6% in 2007, while for men it was 26.4%.

Private sector union density fell by 0.5 percentage points to 16.1% in 2007, whereas public sector union density rose 0.3 percentage points in 2007 to 59%.

The hourly earnings of union members, according to the figures, averaged £12.74 in 2007, 15.6% more than the earnings of non-members (£11.02 per hour).

TUC general secretary Brendan Barber said union membership was holding steady despite this year’s major economic difficulties.

“My advice to workers worried about further shocks to the economy would be to join a union as soon as they can,” he said. “If nothing else, these figures show trade union members tend to earn more than non-members, earning an average of £12.74 an hour compared to £11.02 an hour.

“The challenge for unions now is to increase the number of trade union members, and with more people in work than ever before, unions need to do all they can to recruit and organise members, especially in the private sector.”

Last week figures from The Certification Officer – who keeps records of union activity – showed union membership increased slightly last year. But these figures include retired members and jobseekers who are not in employment.

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