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02 December 2000

Union members get wide ranging legal benefits
Trade unions have expanded beyond recognition their most popular membership benefit - legal advice and representation, according to a survey in Labour Research magazine.

The survey of 47 unions reveals that four in five trade unions now provide their members with legal cover for non-work matters, such as road-accident and clinical-negligence cover, and more than half provide a free wills service. Meanwhile two in three unions extend their legal cover to members' families.

This all comes on top of a huge increase in employment tribunal cases, which now exceed 100,000 a year.

Most unions guarantee a genuinely free service at the point of use. The services are usually paid for out of union general funds and 34 of the 47 give their legal services free in return for no more than their members' normal subscription, averaging just over ?2 a week.

Just 13 unions recoup anything at all from successful claims, and then only small amounts. For example public service union IPMS deducts no more than 3% of any successful claim.

The 47 unions now employ over 50 legally qualified staff, mainly working from union head offices. But almost all unions use outside law firms for at least some of their work, a market which is dominated by a small number of firms.

Notes to editors

1 More details of the survey are included in the enclosed December 2000 issue of Labour Research.

2 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.

3 For further information on this press release contact Sonia McKay on 020 902 9827.

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