The TUC's biennial equality audit published today shows that people employed in workplaces with a trade union presence are likely to have a better work-life balance and face less discrimination than individuals in non-unionised workplaces.
The equality audit 2005 shows union success in, for example, negotiating agreements giving employees a greater flexibility regarding the number of hours they work, and improved maternity and paternity pay and leave.
Unions are also working with employers to toughen up workplace procedures tackling racism, sexism, ageism and homophobia at work.
Two-thirds of the 67 TUC-affiliated unions that responded to the survey reported achieving a greater work-life balance for employees.
A similar proportion had been able to negotiate maternity and paternity pay and leave above the statutory minimum.
With women's pay still lagging way behind men's, the issue of equal pay is a burning issue for unions, with more than half of the survey respondents (54%) saying they had been successful in negotiating improvements.
Winning improvements for ethnic minority staff and migrant workers had been achieved by half of the unions responding to the survey. This includes a joint charter agreed by the civil service unions and the Cabinet Office to try to address the under-representation of ethnic minority staff at senior levels, and work to limit the influence of the far right.
Just under half (46%) of the unions had successfully negotiated a better deal at work for lesbian, gay, transgender and bisexual workers. Connect, for example, has been able to achieve parental leave rights for same-sex partners at BT.
TUC general secretary Brendan Barber said: “This survey proves that unions can and are making a difference to the lives of millions of working people by encouraging employers to tackle the issues that could otherwise be ignored.
“Unions are helping parents change their working hours so they can get to see more of their children and are doing all they can to stop the far right from intimidating people at work and in our communities.”