We reported yesterday that trade union membership is in long-term decline, according to official data.
But while trade union membership would appear to be in decline, there has been something of a resurgence in labour disputes, in direct response to public spending cuts.
Last year saw the highest number of working days lost to labour disputes in more than two decades. This trend was driven by a renewed militancy in the public sector.
These are among the key findings of detailed analysis of data relating to labour disputes in 2011, compiled by the Office for National Statistics (ONS). ONS says:
In 2011, 1,389,700 working days were lost in the UK from 149 stoppages of work arising from labour disputes. The days lost figure is the highest since 1990 (1,903,000) while the stoppages figure is the highest since 2006 (158). The number of strikes in the public sector in 2011 is almost double that in 2010, with 88 in 2011 compared with 47 in 2010. There were 61 strikes in the private sector in 2011.Other key trends revealed by the ONS analysis of labour disputes in 2011 include the following:
- Pay is once again a key issue in labour disputes.
"[P]ay disputes are again at the forefront of industrial action" as a
direct result of "large strikes in the public sector in 2011," says ONS.
"In 2011, 95% of working days lost were due to disputes over pay, with
pay also accounting for 48% of all stoppages. A further 36% of stoppages
came from disputes over possible redundancies."
- Strikes are getting shorter. In 2011, "the majority of stoppages (54 per cent) lasted just one day, involved 1,471,700 workers and accounted for 93 per cent of the total working days lost," says ONS.
- Levels of strike action are well below those seen in the 1980s. ONS notes that the total number of working days lost to labour disputes is "considerably higher" than the averages recorded each year in the 2000s. However, "the 2011 figure is considerably lower than the average for the 1980s (7.2 million) as well as previous decades, when industrial action was more common."
These findings are in stark contrast to ONS' analysis of labour dispute data for 2010, which found that the number of stoppages
hit a "record low" in 2010.
What's your view on the state of the unions in 2012?
I'm very interested to find out the views of XpertHR readers on the issues around the state of the UK trade unions raised here.
I'd love to hear from you. You can submit comments via the box below, or contact me directly via Twitter, LinkedIn or Google+.
State of the unions: Read all the posts in the XpertHR series
- State of the unions (1): What's on the union agenda for 2012 and beyond?
As autumn 2012 gets underway, the UK's trade unions are expected to confront the Coalition Government on multiple fronts in 2012 and beyond, including pay and pensions. It is also possible that the unions will set their sights on the Coalition Government's programme of radical employment law reform. A schedule of trade union activism is taking shape for the coming year.
- State of the unions (2): Union membership is in long-term decline
The public appetite for trade union membership could be in decline, latest data suggest.
- State of the unions (3): Labour disputes show strong resurgence as austerity bites
While trade union membership would appear to be in decline, there has been something of a resurgence in labour disputes, in direct response to public spending cuts. Last year saw the highest number of working days lost to labour disputes in more than two decades. This trend was driven by a renewed militancy in the public sector.
- State of the unions (4): Upsurge in labour disputes continues in 2012
Latest data on labour disputes in 2012 suggests that the resurgence in activity seen in 2011 is continuing this year. But despite this upward trend over recent years, levels of labour disputes remain low by historical standards.
- State of the unions (5): Appetite for co-operation?
Is the unions' appetite for industrial action being replaced by an appetite for co-operation?
- Union activity on the rise as TUC plans mass demonstration in London for Saturday 20 October 2012 XpertHR reports.
- XpertHR economic commentary October 2012: A lack of oomph XpertHR's October 2012 economic commentary looks at the Coalition Government's latest actions to boost growth and considers trends in trade union activity.
- Is the Coalition Government waging a 'war on how we work'? and Beecroft report was inspired by 'hopeless' HR director, says Telegraph XpertHR reports.
- Will trade unions struggle for relevance in the Facebook era?
- Banning strike action in 'essential services': The CIPD's 'nuclear option' for implementing public spending cuts