‘Wildcat’ strikes set to rise as unionism wanes

Dwindling union membership could mean employers face more unofficial industrial action and ‘wildcat’ strikes, which are harder to resolve, according to employment experts.

Last week the UK’s biggest union Unite announced job cuts, expected to be in response to reduced income from membership fees during the downturn.

Bosses said the redundancies were part of a drive to create 20% efficiencies. Meanwhile public sector union PCS said it will halve senior management from 22 posts to 11.

Paul Nowak, national organiser of the Trades Union Congress told Personnel Today: “We expect the recession to have a negative impact on union membership. Large numbers of trade union members have been made redundant, and that will impact on membership.”

David Coates, associate director of think-tank The Work Foundation, said reduced union membership would be bad news for employers. He highlighted that last week’s wildcat strikes – the second this year in response to employers hiring foreign workers before local staff – would become more common if union membership declined.

“Decreased union membership will not lead to fewer strikes, but more disruption which is unorganised,” he said. “There could be more wildcat strikes which no-one is controlling. With unions, in principle, they know what they are doing and what is reasonable to push for. [Without union membership] it’s possible employees will push for more unreasonable demands.”

More than 1,000 staff staged wildcat strikes across the country last week in protest at contractor Hertel UK employing Polish workers ahead of local employees.

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