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Trade unions in the United Kingdom

Trade unions: Not dead yet

Trade unions in the United Kingdom 57%

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Up to two million public sector workers, both union and non-union members, went on strike last yearWe've all seen the trend - trade union membership numbers are falling, and unions wield less power.


Well, there is no denying the first half of that story is true - in 1979 some 13.5 million workers in the UK were members of a union; today that figure is about 6.5 million.


But big turnouts seen at recent strikes and demonstrations suggest that the power of trade unions is not quite coming to an end just yet.


Take for instance, the national strike by public sector workers that took place on 30 November last year. Up to two million workers walked out, protesting against changes to their pension schemes, marking the biggest stoppage seen in the UK in decades.


Prime Minister David Cameron initially said the day of action had been a "damp squib" but later described it as a "big strike".


In the private sector too, workers at Unilever are currently in the middle of 11 days of strike action over the company's plan to shut their final-salary pension scheme. It comes hot on the heels of the first national strike in Unilever's history last month, when more than a third of its workforce walked out.


By Shanaz Musafer

Photo: Up to two million public sector workers, both union and non-union members, went on strike last year


Read more: BBC News (25 January 2012)

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