The decline of power and membership of trade unions since the 1970’s

This report will outline the various factors which could be used as a source of reasoning behind the decline of power and membership of trade unions since the 1970's. In order to achieve a formidable conclusion, I have taken upon studying the following factors in greater depth which may contribute to the reasons for the decline in trade union membership, they can be briefly described by; The rise in part time workers; the change in the UK's dominant industry; the change in un/employment; the rate of employment in a particular firm (i.

e. sole trader); hostile legislation brought about by the government; the age group; the willingness for unions to accept new members. Through the 1970's upon present, it has been recorded through census surveys and polls that there is an increase in the number of part time workers in comparison to full time workers. The drop in union density can be found in the increase of 'atypical' forms of employment, especially between 1995 and 2001. The number has increased by 58,000 people (part time).

Through opinion polls, it has been found that part time workers are less reluctant to join trade unions as they feel it is either "a waste of money". The reasoning behind this expression is that if the trade union and its members do win a battle to increase the pay, it'll affect every member within the organisation, even those who aren't union members. Non-members can therefore still benefit from fringe benefits and perks such as a new canteen, vending machines and new uniforms without any contribution what-so-ever.

It can therefore be said that the principle behind this attitude is quite unfair, however quite realistic and goes around in many organisations. During the early 80's, surveys show that there has been an incremental change in the way in which the UK organisations carry out there business practices in regards to the type of industry. Trade union membership was the highest in the manufacturing industries such as construction and car manufacturing. These industries were very large and required a large number of manual workers.

Due to management, many found that they were often miss-treated, therefore unions were developed to increase job security and safety. This was all very well, however by the 80's they began to decline in existence and obviously their trade union membership dipped proportionally. These industries were now moving overseas to take advantage of other available resources and legislation which benefits the business much more. UK firms have more recently moved to the tertiary sector whereby services are offered more that manufacturing goods and selling them off.

Depending on the business cycle and the reluctance of firms producing goods which are in demand, there will be larger organisations recruiting more and more people which often lead unions being established to speak for the broad range of employees. In recent years such as the 1990's to present there has been a dramatic upswing in the number of students carrying on with further education. From here, depending on the individual, they may consider setting up their own firms or surviving on the dole (unemployed).

Unemployment was quite high when large organisations began to close such as the manufacturing firms and there were a vast amount of redundancies in areas such as British Aerospace. This was quite a factor in the decline in union membership however there was another similar factor. Young people have a lower propensity to be union members than older people according to the labour force survey. In 1995 the union density was 53. 3% among those under 30 years of age, and in 2001 it had dropped to 40. 3%.

There has also been an increase in the proportion of the workforce employed by small companies where it is often difficult for unions to be established. In comparison to larger firms, there is less reluctance for them to need a union to be heard by the owner or management. Usually if the employees are unhappy with something or feel as though they should be entitled to a raise, they would most probably carry out individual bargaining or have frequent meetings a few times a month to deal with issues.

Trade union membership in Britain under the Thatcher and Major governments fell from over 13 million in 1980 to around 7 million in 1997. Collective bargaining density fell by around half as well. Legislation under the Conservative governments withdrew many statutory rights which trade unions had previously won, and imposed tighter and tighter constraints on unions and on their ability to take industrial action in disputes. The trade union act 1984 was introduced which allowed employers to sue unions if a strike was authorised without a secret ballot.

Accompanying this law brought about another law introduction 9 years later called the Trade Union reform and employment rights act 1993. A seven-day notice was needed for an official industrial action. This law weakened the position and impact of the trade unions through spontaneous strikes. There was a reduced need to join trade unions by employees as new imposed legislation such as the health and safety at work act introduced in 1974 came into affect whereby set up the minimum requirements for the workplace. Extra amendments came into power on the 1st January 1996.

Employers had more freedom to sack people who have taken part in industrial action although this has changed from the spring of 2000, under the Employment Relations Act 1999. From here, it will be automatically unfair to sack lawfully striking workers simply because they went on strike, for the first 8 weeks of the strike. Unions cannot be set up without an in depth thought and course of action planning therefore there is a lot less reluctance to join or build a union as it can become quite a complex, expensive and daunting event.

The failure to open membership to new workers can be observed in some of the Building Trade Unions who try to provide jobs for their existing membership by restricting new membership. This practice of protecting the lucky few in a union is called "country club unionism" and is a formula for future decline as the industry grows. Further, it has created alienation among workers who have been permitted to work only as temporary permit workers during periods when the union had full employment.

These workers see the union taking their fees but providing few, if any, benefits and denying full membership status. Ultimately, the philosophy of restricting entry to membership results in the development of ill-will by prospective members and ensures the union will not only see little growth but will eventually shrink as the base of established union firms declines over time. In evaluation, I have looked at several factors in which support the decline in membership and power of trade unions, however we must take into account the validity and accuracy of the data sources.

I researched through many websites, textbooks and newspapers in order to gather relevant information within the allocated time limit. The sources from which I gathered the information from needs to be stripped from any bias views in order for it to stand as true "hard" facts, otherwise they aren't statistically valid. In order to increase the accuracy of the information gathered, I cross-referenced the acquired results through both the Internet and textbooks.

I was able to see a similarity of dates and percentages at certain stages which either related or were totally oblivious. I picked out the relevant dates as accurate as possible to reduce typographical errors. By looking at the quantifiable statistics such as figures from percentages, I needed to be wary about 2 factors. The first factor was whether or not it could have been window dressed with intent to miss-lead the user therefore the data source would have led to bias.

The second factor was to identify the sample size. We know that large samples are more statistically valid than small samples therefore further research may be needed to be gathered in order to strip the figures from any political or bias views. Organisations or government may want to distribute data and information to the public via the internet or textbooks so they can control what we see, therefore there should be an element of doubt at all times in making conclusive judgments.