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Retaining and Growing Membership Alex Bryson (NIESR) Unions 21 GS Meeting 9th December2009
Overview • What is union membership? • The old ways: union values and solidarity • The new ways? the value of membership to employees • Employers: a complex ‘sell’ • Union finances • What to do/think about?
The decline (1): density and coverage Membership density Bargaining coverage Base: employees in workplaces with 25+ employees Source: WERS
The decline (2): number of shop stewards Base: shop stewards of recognised trade unions in workplaces with 25+ employees Source: Forth and Charlwood (2009) using WERS
Union membership is...values and solidarity • It can work: mobilisation theory • How to inculcate this? • Among the young: 50%+ employees are ‘never-members’ • 80% private sector workplaces have no union • Even higher among new/younger workplaces [ACTUAL %] • Increasing % of union members are professionals/non-manuals • Breakdown of transmission mechanisms • Parents • Communities • Colleagues • Declining density even where unions are organized
Union membership is...a decision to be made • Costs and benefits • Closed shop=union the default; reputational cost if not union • Not so any more: have to win workers over • Selling points • Equity; grievance handling; wages wellbeing; WLB; training • BUT • Hard to perceive (experience needed) • Often resort to in crisis/when problem (eg. teachers) • Rarely meet the union in ‘good times’ • Is cost an issue?
Employers....A Complex ‘Sell’ • Usually apathetic rather than hostile • Union effects have changed since the 1980s • Employment growth • Productivity/profitability • Union effectiveness associated with employer perceptions of better performance • Positive association with high involvement management • Climate • Still associated with conflict but less pronounced • But also voice for workers which solves grievances, reduces quits
Stoppages 1960-2006and Employment Tribunal Claims: 1972-2006 Stoppage Days Employment Tribunal Claims Registered 4500 4000 3500 3000 2500 2000 1500 1000 500 0 1978 1980 1982 1984 1986 1988 1990 1992 1994 1996 1998 2000 2002 2004 2006 1972 1974 1976 1970 1960 1962 1964 1966 1968 Source: Office for National Statistics
Expressions of conflict, by ‘voice’ Base: all workplaces with 5+ employees Source: Dix, Forth and Sisson (2009) using WERS
Union Capacity to Deliver • Union finances • Loss of revenue from subs due to union density decline • No substantial gains from merger • Cost of servicing membership has grown • Increase in individual grievances • Fall in N reps per member • High costs of organising • Employee perceptions of union effectiveness poor: • fewer than 3/5 of union members thought that the union(s) at their workplace were taken seriously by management • <1/2 thought unions made a difference to what it was like to work there • But on-site shop stewards positively affect workers' perceptions of union effectiveness
It’s a new world • Bankers/financiers/free market are done for a while • Opportunity for unions to take initiative, especially if Tory government • Unions as the voice of eg. Americans for Financial Reform: Accountability, Fairness, Security (http://ourfinancialsecurity.org/) • New opportunities to organise and service • Working America working through the community http://www.workingamerica.org/ • Networks to support union reps http://www.unionreps.org.uk/login.cfm • Considering how to sell membership • How can unions become ‘default’? Opt out not opt in (cf. pensions) • Experiment with the package on offer • Price of membership and service offered