From the TUC

8 surprising facts about trade union membership

03 Jun 2015, By

The Office of National Statistics collects data on trade union membership every year and they’ve just released their report. You can read it yourself here, but for those who don’t have time to read a 55 page report, here are eight of the headline figures. I’ll have a more detailed blog on this later, and I’ve already followed up to this post with 8 honest challenges for trade unions, arising from the same statistics.

1. There are 6.4 million trade union members in the UK

That’s 25% of all employees. It’s down from previous decades, but it’s still a huge number and makes trade unions Britain’s biggest social movement.

2. There are more and more private sector union members

For the fourth year in a row, the levels of union members in the private sector has increased. There are 200,000 more since 2010. The numbers are still far too low (14% of the private sector is unionised, compared to 54% for the public sector), but it’s great to see progress being made. It’s definitive proof of the value of organising.

3. Private sector union members earn 8% more than non-members

The average hourly wage for non-unionised workers in the private sector is £12.64. For union members, it’s £13.67. The “union premium” is even bigger for young workers from ages 16 -24, who earn 39% more than their non-unionised colleagues (that’s £7.84 to £10.18).

4. Public sector union members earn more too

21% more. Not all of that can be put down to being a union member, but it’s clear that a union does deliver on fairer, better pay for its members – in the private or public sector. Being a union member also gives you a say on what happens in your workplace.

5. Women who are in a union earn 30% more

The wages of women union members are on average 30% higher than those of non-unionised women.

6. And women make up the majority of union members

For the 13th year in a row, women are more likely to be trade union members than men.  55% of union members are women. This somewhat dispels the myth that unions have male-dominated memberships, especially considering that women form a minority of the workforce.

7. The highest rates of union membership are among black workers

The proportion of employees who are union members was highest among “Black or Black British” workers . Union are often described as “male and pale” – but the latest figures dispel that.

8. 40% of UK employees work in a workplace with a union, but only 25% are union members

The figures show that there are significant number of workers who we can reach easily because the already work where a union is present. This is a massive opportunity. The benefits for union members are clear, and the government’s attacks on trade unions only show that they still fear the impact of organised workers demanding fair pay, proper rights, and a decent society.

Let’s get organising!

8 Responses to 8 surprising facts about trade union membership

  1. Alex
    Jun 4th 2015, 7:19 am

    No. 3: The difference between £7.34 and £10.18 is way more than 8%. Have I missed something in that figure?

  2. Gregor Gall
    Jun 4th 2015, 9:40 am

    Carl – I know you know this but on point 8, it must be recognised that there is an incentive for the non-members to remain non-members in workplaces where there are union members who have are covered by recognition/collective bargaining. It’s the old ‘free rider’ problem. So yes the argument needs to be made that workers shouldn’t ‘free ride’ and that more members/density will strengthen all workers in that workplace etc. But if there were some significant, clear cut victories for unions that were highly visible and highly applicable (ie not train drivers being comparable to shop workers vis-a-vis strategic power) to others, this might help convince the free riders to take the plunge (leaving aside the issue of post-joining union participation). If this is not recognised, your point is likely to be another false dawn.

  3. Michael Pidgeon

    Michael Pidgeon
    Jun 4th 2015, 1:18 pm

    Hi Alex,

    Cheers for the comment. I’ve corrected that section, as those figures referred to young workers. I’ve clarified that and made the numbers clearer. Thanks!


  4. 8 honest challenges for trade unions | STRONGER UNIONS
    Jun 4th 2015, 4:08 pm

    […] I put together 8 surprising facts about trade union membership. It’s been a really popular post, and it was based on the latest Office of National […]

  5. Mrs Smith
    Jun 4th 2015, 9:41 pm

    I’m a UNION rep and I don’t earn any more than a non member at all?

  6. Mad dog
    Jun 6th 2015, 10:50 am

    Collective bargaining is the scourge of the unions, if we negotiated for our members only, then we would have a higher membership rate and that is fact. When your own work colleagues tell you that they will get the same as you anyway so why bother joining a union.

  7. The Left Never lie…
    Jun 8th 2015, 10:36 am

    Ridiculous BS, “PLOY AND PROPAGANDA” Written all over this article, these figures are utter crap, I wonder who made them up or bent the stats bar to suit.. oh wait… I forgot its a union website.. Doh!”!!

  8. Gregor Gall
    Jun 8th 2015, 2:33 pm

    To the last post/poster: these figures are taken directly from the annual government report based on the government survey, the Labour Force Survey. There has been no ploy or propaganda deployed. Go though the government report and you’ll see all the figures Carl has highlighted. They are there in black and white.