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04 September 2000

Unions recruit before seeking recognition
Unions have increasingly been building up membership in workplaces before seeking recognition from employers, according to a new survey of union officials published in Labour Research magazine.

The survey knocks on the head the idea that recognition deals are usually struck in a back-room stitch-up between company bosses and union barons.

The majority of officials contacted said they would not even consider presenting a claim for recognition until they had already won a substantial body of workers into membership. On average unions will have recruited 40%-50% of the workforce when they decide to launch a recognition campaign.

This emphasis on membership levels has clearly been influenced by recently introduced legislation giving unions rights to recognition providing they pass a threshold of membership among the workforce.

The survey also shows that recognition drives mostly start when a union member joins a non-union workplace or where the union is approached by a group of workers who have a grievance or want to improve their working terms.

This means that union strategy for recognition often has to be thrown out in preference to responding to events on the ground. Most officials responding to the survey were in any case sceptical of "cold recruitment" except in very specific circumstances.

The survey revealed that the success of a campaign is less reliant than thought on the attitude of the employers themselves, backing up internal research carried out by the TUC. Most officials said that membership size and the level of union organisation at the workplace was a more significant factor in whether recognition was achieved.

Notes to editors

More details of the findings are published in the enclosed September 2000 issue of the Labour Research.
Labour Research is published by the Labour Research Department, an independent trade union and labour movement organisation founded 89 years ago. More than 2,000 trade union organisations, including 55 national unions representing 99% of total TUC membership, are affiliated.
For further information on this press release contact Sonia McKay on 020 902 9827.
 

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