Unite general secretary Len McCluskey said that many thousands of new members had joined since the lockdown, and he urged the government to involve trade unions’ “army of safety reps to get people back to work safely.”
New figures released by the business department on Wednesday show the number of workers who are member of trade unions rose by a net 91,000 in 2019, the third consecutive year in which the number of union members has grown after year of decline.
6.44 million people are now members of trade unions, up from a record low of 6.23 million in 2016, covering 23.5 per cent of the workforce – also slightly up on previous years.
Trade unions have taken on a higher political profile during the Covid-19 crisis and were credited with arguing for the coronavirus furlough scheme, though the 2019 figures do not take this into account.
Unison general secretary Dave Prentis said: “During the pandemic, thousands of public-service workers have been joining Unison.“They realise it makes sense in uncertain times to have somewhere to turn that has their best interests at heart.
“Everyone in work should be in a union.”
Britain’s trade unions appear to be reversing their historic decline in membership, partly thanks to increasing numbers of women joining their ranks.
GMB acting general secretary John Phillips said: “GMB is seeing thousands of new members every week, and tens of thousands since the start of the year.
“People are rightly worried about bosses forcing them back to workplaces with no social distancing and about what kind of sick pay they will receive if they catch coronavirus.
“Meanwhile key workers are looking at their pay packets knowing they deserve more.”
The TUC said that the number of people visiting its online “joining a union” page this month was up 500 per cent on May last year.
At the end of last year, membership of TUC-affiliated unions stood at 5.6 million, and 6.44m when non-affiliated unions were added, up 211,000 in the last three years.
Trade union membership in the UK rose over the last year, according to figures from the Department for Business, Energy, & Industrial Strategy.
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