No room for complacency on union membership

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date: July 30 2004

embargo: immediate

Attention: industrial correspondents

The TUC has welcomed confirmation in a DTI report published today that union density rose in the UK in 2003 for the first time since the Labour Force Survey started to measure it in 1989, but has warned that there should be no complacency by unions as it reveals that TUC membership fell last year by 250,000.

The detailed analysis of the Labour Force Survey published today shows that the proportion of women (29.3 per cent) in the workforce who are union members is now almost equal to the proportion of men (29.4 per cent). If trends continue density among women will overtake that of men during 2004.

Union membership according to the Labour Force Survey was 7.38 million, while TUC membership fell by 268,000 from 6,690,631 to 6,422,330 last year. However the decrease is a result of membership housekeeping exercises by unions over the last year rather than a sudden fall in union membership. The Labour Force Survey also includes all unions and staff associations, not just TUC affiliates.

TUC General Secretary, Brendan Barber, said, 'The broad union membership picture is unchanged. Unions lost members during the 1980s and early 1990s, but since 1997 with a more successful economy, growth in public sector employment and better legal framework headline union membership has remained remarkably stable.

'But much has changed beneath the surface with a steep fall in manufacturing membership made up by growth in the services sector, particularly public services. There is absolutely no room for complacency in these figures, and unions are right to be putting new resources into organising and recruitment efforts.'

The DTI press release is available at and the full analysis at which includes regional figures.


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