Trade union membership fell by just under 2% last year to 6.39 million although union density – the percentage of the working population who are members – has risen slightly to 29%, according to official figures released today.
The Trade Union Membership 2005 report, based on Labour Force Survey for autumn 2005, published by the Department of Trade and Industry, highlights a strong rise in union density among women – up by 0.9% to 29.9% of employees, while male union density fell by 0.3% to 28.2%. This is the second consecutive year that the rate of female employee union membership has outpaced that of men.
Less than one in five (17.2%) employees in the private sector were union members in autumn 2005.
Private sector union density remained the same as in 2004. Collective agreements covered 20.9% of private sector employees, while 32.8% worked in a workplace where unions were present.
Almost three in five (58.6%) public sector employees in the UK were union members. Public sector union density fell by 0.2% in 2005. Collective agreement coverage in the public sector was 71%, more than three times that of the private sector.
Trade unions were present in 86.8% of public sector workplaces in the UK.
TUC general secretary Brendan Barber said: "These are mixed figures. While this is only the second year that they have shown an increase in union density, continuing job losses in manufacturing have hit union membership among men. But unions are continuing to do well in recruiting women and women workers are now more likely to be union members than men.
"The figures show conclusively that workers are better off in a union," he claimed. "Union members earn 18% more than non-members per hour – worth £72 over a 40 hour week."