It’s more important than ever to be in a union

13 Jun

Annual trade union membership statistics, released recently by the Department for Business Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS), show that:

  • “Around 6.2 million employees in the UK were trade union members in 2016. The level of overall union members decreased by 275,000 over the year from 2015 (a 4.2% decrease), the largest annual fall recorded since the series began in 1995. Current membership levels are well below the peak of over 13 million in 1979.”
  • There were 1,469,000 people working in education in 2016 who belonged to a union, compared with 1,624,000 the previous year – a drop of 155,000 members.

Voice General Secretary Deborah Lawson commented: 

“There are many factors in the overall decline in trade union membership figures, including stricter reporting measures from April 2015 under the Transparency of Lobbying, Non-party Campaigning and Trade Union Administration Act 2014 (“The Lobbying Act”).

“However that hasn’t really affected Voice, as our membership has risen by around 2,000 over the last 12 months. 

“It can be difficult to compare figures because of the ‘teaching’ unions’ varied membership, with some also including support staff and headteachers. 

“However, taking a longer term view, teachers have been leaving the profession early and taking early retirement because of drivers such as the frequent changes to education as a result of government policy, increasing workload, and Ofsted and the intensive accountability regime.

“There has also been an increase in the number of teachers not remaining in the profession for more than five years. We are currently in a recruitment and retention crisis.

“Austerity has also had an impact, with restructuring, reduced hours, and eliminated posts and redundancies resulting in increasing workloads for remaining staff, who can then in turn seek to leave the profession.

“In the current climate, it is more important than ever to be in a union because of the impact of accountability and austerity on the workload of the whole education workforce, including teachers, TAs, finance managers, bursars and network teams.

In the same way that it’s too late to take out car insurance after an accident or home insurance after a flood, you can’t join a union and expect support and representation after a problem has arisen at work.

“We have anecdotal evidence of new teachers, who already have the burden of student loans to pay off, being told by mortgage advisers and lenders that union membership is a ‘non-essential cost’. However, we would say that they need that back-up to support them, because if they face losing their job for whatever reason, then their home is at risk.”

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