Friday 24th May 2024

Why you should join a union

In the United Kingdom, trade union membership is falling, it’s down from 25% in 2014, to just 23.5% in 2016 – making up just 6.2 million members. It’s at the lowest that it’s ever been since its peek in 1995 which saw over 13 million people signed up for collective representation.

Yet, in a climate of financial uncertainty, of zero hour contracts, and vast amounts of work paying below the actual living wage, there’s never been a more vital time to join up. So here are some more reasons why it’s worth doing that.


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It’s been an uncomfortable truth in the UK for a while now that, far more often than not, zero hour contracts pose little to no benefit for employees and give far too much power to employers. However, recently trade unions have been successful in putting pressure on a number of corporations to change their practices – one such example being MacDonald’s fast food chain, who recently conceded to offering 115,000 UK employees the choice to take up fixed term contracts.

Health and safety

The restaurant chain Wagamama was in the news recently for a note that a manager had posted to staff informing them that if they took leave over the festive period they would be reprimanded. A savvy union member sent a picture of the note to Unite, and they were able to help give the story the news coverage that it deserved, garnering enough negative publicity for Wagamama to do something about it. You probably don’t need an explanation as to why food and potentially infectious diseases are not a great combination.

There’s power in numbers

It’s a lot easier for a company to dismiss one person than a whole group of them. Strikes are far more effective when organised by a trade union, which can then send people in to negotiate on behalf of the workers.

Which union is right for you?

While there are myriad options available to you, depending on the sector in which you work, these are the main unions in Britain:

Unite the Union


Trades Union Congress

Communication Workers Union


Many of these unions also have youth wings and often come with other benefits besides work place protections.

Joining a trade union isn’t free, but then again, nothing in life is. You should treat it as a kind of insurance policy – if you’re fortunate enough to work for a company that cares about its workers then that’s all well and good, but nowadays these companies look to be few and far between.

Regardless of whether you decide to become a union member or not, it’s important to be aware of your work place rights.

Photo by lucia on Unsplash

Maddy Sutherland

Maddy is a freelance illustrator who lives in Glasgow. She's recently graduated and is working hard to make ends meet. Self-employed? Read Maddy's experiences here.

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