2011 Trade Union Membership Figures released

26 Apr

Yesterday, the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) released their annual report on trade union membership which is taken from the annual Labour Force Survey (LFS) in the final quarter of 2011.  Carl Roper from the TUC blogged about the 2010 release here.

So, what were the figures and what do they mean for trade unions?

Headline figures

  • Across the whole workforce, union membership fell by 143,000 despite an increase in private sector membership (up by 43,000), and now stands at 6.4 million.  Union density (the percentage of workers who are union members) fell by 0.6% to 26%.
  • 31.2 % of all employees were covered by a collective bargaining arrangement, up from 30.8% and unions are now present in 44.9% of workplaces , down from 46%.

Getting a bigger break down in terms of private/public sector, the figures look more like this:

  • In the public sector, despite a membership fall of 186,000, union density rose by 0.2% to 56.5%; bargaining coverage rose by 3.3% to 67.8% and the amount of public sector workplaces where there is a trade union presence rose to 87.1% from 85.8%.
  • In the private sector, membership rose by 43,000 but density fell by 0.1%; bargaining coverage has been maintained, staying steady at 16.9% and union presence in workplaces fell to 28.5% from 29.6%.
  • In the male/female split, density remains higher amongst women employees (28.7%) than amongst male employees (23.4%).


These figures represent a mixed picture of decline and increase from the figures for 2010.  And the points I’d raise on the initial analysis of the figures are:

  1. We are seeing a continued fall in total union membership.  While the rise in private sector membership is welcome, total union membership continues to fall.  However, unlike the 1980s and 1990s, this fall is much shallower and the differentials in decline are much less pronounced.  The large decrease in membership should also be taken into the wider context of an overall loss of public sector jobs (369,000) in the same period.
  2. Decline in presence should be of concern for unions. 
  3. The picture on union density is mixed.  In 2011, overall density fell by 0.6% which is the norm since 1995 (it fell in all but three years).  However, public sector density rose slightly which is the first increase since 2000 and even in the private sector, which saw a fall of 0.1%, saw its smallest decline since 2000.
  4. Collective bargaining has risen.  The area where we had a real concern, saw a slight reversal of trend with the first increase in workers covered by collective agreements since 1998.  This is great news but we need to keep this trend going up to have an impact on worker wages. 

A mixed picture for us then with some positives which we didn’t have in 2010, but still one that shows that we need to work hard to continue to organise and unionise.  Look out for postings over the next week from our union contributors to see what it means for their sectors and unions.

Becky Wright

Becky Wright, Director, Organising Academy, TUC

Follow Becky on Twitter: @BeckyTUC

Becky also writes for Stronger Unions

One Response to “2011 Trade Union Membership Figures released”

  1. Left Out April 26, 2012 at 11:54 am #

    Wales is the only nation where the figures released show trade union membership has increased in the past year. The secret of positive and productive social partnership? Good for employees, employers and the economy.

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