Thursday, 28 July 2016

"Private sector workers have rejected Trade Unions"

This is a charge casually made by politicians, or written about in the media.  I can understand why the lay-person to may think the same, as only around 15% of private sector workers are in an independent union.

But the 15% figure really doesn't tell us the story.

The statutory procedure for union recognition has been in place for sixteen years.  Since that time, several hundred recognition agreements in the private sector have been achieved in this way.  

The CAC have confirmed a consistent trend during this time.  In every year of the CAC, around 65% of private sector workplaces voted YES and achieved union recognition when they were balloted.

But that doesn't mean that 35% of workplaces voted no. Overwhelmingly, the vast majority of these workplaces also voted YES, but the 40% turnout threshold wasn't met. Overall, it is clear that private sector workers do want unions to negotiate pay and conditions.

It is extremely misleading to say that "private sector workers have rejected Trade Unions.". The vast majority of them are simply denied the choice. As things stand, it is incredibly difficult for unions to enable a non-union workplace to have that choice.  Without political change, the vast majority of private sector workers are never going to be asked.

It's not just the UK where workers want unions but can't have them. For example, polling on this issue shows a very similar situation in America. Meanwhile, the media narrative is that unions are suffering terminal decline.

The view that private sector workers don't want representation is a convienient excuse for the likes of the CBI to dismiss unions as irrelevant. That is one thing that unions could never be.

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