The positive benefits that unions bring to workers, the organisations that employ them, and the community beyond that workplace
Every day, the United Road Transport Union (URTU) and Britain’s other trade unions are working hard for their members. Even now, when times are hard, our negotiators are able to win pay rises to help people. But we don’t just make life better for our members. Our workplace representatives and activists help the organisations they work for, our health and safety reps lower accident rates and reduce ill health at work, while our union learning reps equip their colleagues with the skills that their organisations need to improve productivity or deliver better services.
The collective strength of trade union negotiation means that (on average) union members:
- Take home higher pay
- Have better sickness and pension benefits
- Have more holiday
- Have more flexible working hours.
Union members are also more likely to be in permanent and full-time jobs. Where union membership and collective bargaining is strong, people are far more likely to be paid above the national minimum wage, according to the latest flagship UK employment relations survey, Workplace Employment Relations Study (WERS 2011). Unions won a rise in the average hourly earnings for their members in both the public and private sectors between 2012 and 2013, while on average, non-members in the private sector barely got a rise. Collective bargaining pays off for union members: in the public sector, for every £10,000 that a non-member earns, a union member on average earns around £1,690 more; in the private sector its around £580 more. Union membership brings the greatest financial benefits for young workers: 16 to 24 year old union members earn 33 per cent more than their non-union counterparts.
Strong Legal help
Individuals who run into problems at work can lose out if they don’t have specialist knowledge of workplace issues or the money to afford legal support. But union members can count on their legal department or the use of an expert solicitor to help them win cases relating to employment contracts, harassment, redundancy, pensions and equalities.
The Best Negotiators
In 2011, in the public sector, unions won pay rises more than half the time (55%). But when unions weren’t there to bargain only a third of deals got rises (35%). We also did better for people in the private sector.
By winning better pay and conditions, improving health and safety at work and developing workplace learning cultures, trade unions achieve a huge amount for members and their families. By working with employers to maintain a stable and productive workforce that is involved, trained and committed, they can help organisations come through the bad times and help build a strong, sustainable economy for the future. By speaking up for the communities they are part of, unions campaign to protect and improve the jewels in the crown of UK society such as our National Health Service, and public ownership of the rail system. That is what we call the union advantage. It is why unions, through collective representation, pressure and action, continue to be a powerful force for workers and society as a whole.
Unionised workplaces are safer workplaces. We train 10,000 health and safety representatives every year to internationally recognised standards, so they can reduce injury rates and ill health: that’s why workplaces with unions have far fewer accidents, according to a 2007 study by Nicholas, Walters and Tasiran. Safer workplaces pay off for all of us. By reducing lost time from occupational injuries and work-related illnesses, union safety reps save taxpayers between £181m and £578m (2004 prices) every year, according to a 2007 report by the DTI (now BIS).
Union members also have more paid holidays, with 3.8 days more paid holiday than non-members (25.5 days compared with 21.7 days). For part-time workers the advantage is even greater, as members have an average of 5.5 more days of paid leave (20.4 days compared with 14.9 days). URTU also campaign for new wages councils, a higher national minimum wage and a living wage.
To help broaden the UK skills base and help build a stronger economy, Unionlearn (the skills arm of the TUC) supported more than 219,000 learners through the union route in the year to March 2014. Unions have impressive low-carbon credentials: as well as raising the union voice on key government environmental bodies, we run successful initiatives such as the Green Skills Partnership, which delivers green skills training in construction and other industries, through an alliance of unions, employers, local councils, environmental organisations, education providers, community groups and state agencies. We continue to campaign for effective measures to reduce youth unemployment and underemployment, including implementation of the European Union Youth Guarantee.
Equality for All
Unions fight discrimination on the grounds of gender, race, sexuality and disability and promote equal opportunities for all at work. We believe in diversity at work and campaign to rid workplaces of bias and discrimination. We campaign against the far right in local elections and develop strong links with local communities. Unions have led the way in persuading employers to adopt formal written polices to promote diversity and equal opportunities: three-quarters (76 per cent) of workplaces are now covered by a formal policy, up from two-thirds (67 per cent) 10 years ago (WERS 2011). People in workplaces where there is a trade union are likely to have a better work/life balance and face less discrimination at work than individuals in non-unionised workplaces (TUC Equality Audit 2012). Equal pay remains the standout bargaining priority for most unions. Many unions have negotiated improvements on women’s pay and employment in the last three years, including equal pay audits with employer support and improving the pay of the worst off (the majority of whom are women).
Unions help protect vulnerable workers. We were instrumental in the introduction of the European Agency Workers Directive, which builds on existing protection of agency workers’ rights already campaigned for by UK trade unions. Unions also help migrant and domestic workers. In the past nine years, the union-run Justice for Cleaners campaign has won significant advances in pay, sick pay, pensions and holidays for the capitals cleaners (the vast majority of them migrant workers).
The TUC and trade unions want laws against abuses of zero-hours contracts and for worker representation on boards and remuneration committees.