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27 August 1998

Negotiating the net - a guide for trade unionists
Trade unionists are increasingly likely to use the Internet, and those connected find it a valuable tool for their union activity, according to a survey of union branches by the Labour Research Department (LRD).

Around half of TUC-affiliated unions now have their own Web site, but unions at local level are also getting connected. The survey of 135 trade union branches affiliated to the LRD found that two thirds (65%) are using the Internet for union work.

It also found that three quarters of trade unionists using the Internet do so from a computer at work and that almost half of these have an agreement with the employer which allows them to use the Internet for union activity. Only one third of Internet users get access from a computer provided by the union, but increasingly unions at national level are assisting local branches to get connected and use the Web and e-mail.

Internet usage by unions varies greatly according to sector. The survey found:

* Nine out of 10 union branches in the education, communications and information technology sectors use the Internet for union work;
* Usage in the public services varies with half of local government branches using it, but less than one in five (18%) of health service branches doing so, and
* Less than a third (29%) of union branches in the transport sector are currently users.

More than half of the 47 respondents who are not currently Internet users plan to start doing so in the next year. Of those with no plans, the reasons were lack of information, training and equipment rather than a view that it was of no use.

Eighty four percent of those using e-mail said it was a "very useful" tool for union work and the remaining 16% found it "quite useful". Benefits included speed, efficiency and cheapness.

Fifty three percent of users said the Web was "very useful" for union organisation and campaigns and another 42% thought it was "quite useful". For two-thirds of those using e-mail and over half (56%) of those using the Web, it had changed the way they carried out their union work.

The survey results are reported in LRD's latest booklet, Negotiating the Net - a guide for trade unionists. This includes an introduction to the technology - explaining what the Web and e-mail are, how to get connected and advice on training. It looks at how unions are using it at both national and local level, and gives a guide to useful sources of information, including Web sites, discussion groups and mailing lists.

Notes to editors

Negotiating the Net - a guide for trade unionists is published by the Labour Research Department, 78 Blackfriars Road, London SE1 8HF, price ?2.95 or ?10 for non-labour movement bodies.
LRD Booklets are also available on subscription at an annual cost of ?24.50 (?62.85 for non-labour movement bodies). LRD publishes 11 booklets a year.
The Labour Research Department is an independent trade union and labour movement organisation founded 83 years ago. More than 2,000 trade union organisations, including 54 national unions, representing 99% of total TUC membership are affiliated.
For further information about the survey and the booklet contact Tessa Wright on 0171 902 9817.

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