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A stronger voice for workers

How collective bargaining can deliver a better deal at work
Report type
Policy proposal
Issue date
Key findings

Collective bargaining is a public good that promotes higher pay, better training, safer and more flexible workplaces and greater equality.

It’s what Working Britain deserves. The TUC is committed to making it happen.

Our proposals for reform include:

  • Unions to have access to workplaces to tell workers about the benefits of union membership and collective bargaining (following the system in place in New Zealand).
  • New rights to make it easier for working people to negotiate collectively with their employer, including simplifying the process that workers must follow to have their union recognised by their employer for collective bargaining and enabling unions to scale up bargaining rights in large, multi-site organisations.
  • Broadening the scope of collective bargaining rights to include all pay and conditions, including pay and pensions, working time and holidays, equality issues (including maternity and paternity rights), health and safety, grievance and disciplinary processes, training and development, work organisation, including the introduction of new technologies, and the nature and level of staffing.
  • The establishment of new bodies for unions and employers to negotiate across sectors, starting with hospitality and social care.

Download full report (pdf)

This report sets out why we need to give workers greater rights to collective bargaining and the policies we need to make this happen.

Research shows that workplaces with collective bargaining have higher pay, more training days, more equal opportunities practices, better holiday and sick pay provision, more family-friendly measures, less long-hours working and better health and safety. Staff are much less likely to express job-related anxiety in unionised workplaces than comparable non-unionised workplaces; the difference is particularly striking for women with caring responsibilities.

Employers benefit too. Collective bargaining is linked to lower staff turnover, higher innovation, reduced staff anxiety relating to the management of change and a greater likelihood of high-performance working practices.

And society benefits. Influential organisations from the IMF to the OECD have recognised the role of collective bargaining in reducing inequality, with the OECD calling on government to “put in place a legal framework that promotes social dialogue in large and small firms alike and allows labour relations to adapt to new emerging challenges”[1].

But despite these clear benefits to workers, employers and society, collective bargaining coverage has declined over recent decades, falling from over 80 per cent in 1979 to 26 per cent today.

Why has this happened? Industrial changes have combined with anti-union legislation to make it much harder for people to come together in trade unions to speak up together at work. That’s why we need new rights for workers to benefit from the protection that collective bargaining brings.

Download full report (pdf)


[1] OECD (2018) Good Jobs for All in a Changing World of Work, The OECD Jobs Strategy, OECD Publishing, Paris, https://doi.org/10.1787/9789264308817-en