Taken together, unions are the largest voluntary organisations in the UK - with nearly seven million members and over 200,000 workplace representatives and activists. Union members are present in every sector of the economy: they include computer programmers and shop assistants; factory workers and footballers; bus drivers and airline pilots, teachers and soap stars; musicians and motor mechanics. Representing over a quarter of the UK's workforce, unions are the only workplace organisations able to present a cohesive voice on the concerns of working people and their families to employers, government and society in general. This report sets out the scale of the 'union advantage' - the positive benefits that unions bring to individual workers; the organisations that employ them; and the broader community.
Trade union members contribute to the wealth, health and productivity of the UK. But not only are they effective contributors to the wealth of individual companies or industries but the evidence gathered in this report shows that they are also are more likely to contribute to the social fabric of their community, participating in the many voluntary roles which help create cohesive communities.
Unions also assist their members and their work colleagues in developing their skills for the benefit of their employer, their community as well as themselves. For many the union provides a way of obtaining that learning and those qualifications that they missed out on when they were younger. Unions are also at the forefront of developing greener workplaces, working in co-operation with employers who want to make their enterprise environmentally and energy effective.
This report shows that, not only are trade unions good for their union members and their families, but are also vital in ensuring a stable and productive workforce which is involved, trained and committed. Unions are well placed to support employers to come through the worse effects of the recession, and to support efforts to build a strong, sustainable economy into the future.
Issued: 9 December, 2009