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01 September 1999

Unions make inroads into no-go areas
Unions have started to make inroads into parts of big business that were previously union-free zones, according to a survey in Labour Research magazine. This has led to new recognition agreements in the hospitality and contract services industries.

The magazine examined the 44 companies with over 25,000 employees in the UK and found only three where there was no union recognition at all. This is the same finding as was made in a similar Labour Research survey two years ago. The non-union culprits are Marks & Spencer, John Lewis Partnership and McDonalds burger chain.

But both surveys showed up a number of large firms in which only the minority of employees are unionised or have union recognition. This is particularly true in hospitality companies and cleaning and catering contractors.

However, unions have started to venture into this difficult terrain in the past couple of years. They have gained local recognition agreements in Rentokil, Granada, OCS (contract cleaning) and Compass (contract catering). Unions striking deals include the GMB general union, public services union UNISON and public and commercial services union PCS.

Both the GMB and UNISON also have national agreements with Compass while the GMB has also signed a national deal with Trident Cleaning Services, part of the OCS group.

Unions are also consolidating their position in a number of large companies where union/management relations have been difficult. A partnership deal between Barclays and the banking union UNIFI has enabled the union to offset the traumas of massive redundancies at the bank by negotiating an "industry-leading compensation package" among other measures, according to UNIFI.

And at the UK's largest employer, Tesco, the partnership deal clinched in 1997 has enabled USDAW to increase its membership there by 25% to nearly 100,000 and raise its number of shop stewards by half, to 1,500.

Notes to editors

Further details of union recognition with the largest 44 companies are published in the September 1999 issue of Labour Research. The price of a single copy is ?2.80 (?3.10 including postage).
The Labour Research Department is an independent trade union and labour movement organisation founded 88 years ago. More than 2,000 trade union organisations, including 55 national unions, representing 99% of total TUC membership are affiliated.
For more details contact Richard Pond on 0171 902 9812.

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