Union membership continues downward slide

Union membership in the UK is continuing to decline, according to a report by law firm DLA Piper.

Only 28.8% of UK workers are registered as members of trade unions in 2004, compared with 35.5% in 1993, according to DLA’s Industrial Relations Report.

Almost 60% of union members work in the public sector with just 17.2% were from the private sector.

The report highlights recruitment issues and an ageing membership as significant factors in the decline, along with the collapse of the UK’s manufacturing sector.

David Bradley, co-author of the report, said: “”Unions are painfully aware of the need to recruit new and younger members to reverse the fall in membership that has continued for more than a decade.

“The changing nature of the workplace, the decline in manufacturing and an increasingly fragmented and globalised workforce, is creating difficulties for trade unions,” he said.

The number of days lost to strike action doubled in 2004 to 905,000 days, compared with 499,000 in 2003, according to figures from the Office for National Statistics. But the overall number of strikes was reduced.

Pay disputes were the main cause of strike action, with redundancy issues featuring second.

The recent pensions crisis is also expected to have a major impact on the number of disputes in 2005.

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