Trade union membership on the rise in the UK

A new study by the Department of Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) has revealed trade union membership rose by 59,000 in 2012, with figures reaching 6.5 million nationally.

The rise represents a sharp turnaround in figures, reversing the trend of the last four consecutive years in which the headline number fell by more than 100,000, and the first increase since 2003.

Research also found trade union membership kept pace with an increase in the numbers of workers between 2011 and 2012, remaining at about 26 per cent of the workforce.

Frances O’Grady, the general secretary of the TUC, welcomed the increase, and said factors such as high unemployment and government cuts have been a significant factor.

“This shows that staff, both in the public and private sector, know that a union membership card is still the best guarantee of skills training, job security and fairness at work,” she said.

“Unions have played a key role in exposing the impact of the government’s self-defeating austerity programme and we will be stepping up our campaign for investment in jobs and growth for the future.”

Union membership also saw a significant increase within the private sector, as 63,000 more private sector employees were members of unions last year than in 2011, bringing membership in the sector up to 2.6 million.

The public sector figures remained static for 2012, with 3.9 million workers holding union membership, reversing 2011’s sharp decline of 186,000.

The full Trade Union Statistics 2012 report can be downloaded from the BIS website.