Unions can help to prevent staff feeling stressed and de-motivated by new working practices and reduce the number of staff quitting their jobs, according to a new report published by the TUC this week.

The latest TUC Touchstone pamphlet The Road to Recovery highlights a number of ways in which unions are helping businesses and employees recover from the recession. The report calls on government and employers to recognise the value that unions can bring to workplaces Britain’s workplaces and to economic prosperity more broadly.

The report uses case studies to show how unions have worked with employers to introduce green initiatives in the workplace, create redeployment opportunities for staff and negotiate changes to staff pension schemes.

The Road to Recovery says that as well as giving staff an opportunity to raise concerns at work unions are better at resolving conflicts, with the level of employment tribunal claims in unionised workplaces (1.3 claims per thousand staff) less than half that of unionised workplaces (2.9 claims per thousand staff).

The report says that by giving staff a voice at work, employees are less likely to feel de-motivated by changes to working practices. It cites research showing that unions can reduce ‘quit rates’ in both the public and private sectors – staff in unionised workplaces are less likely to quit their job than in non-unionised workplaces. This positive effect is more pronounced in workplace where unions have higher membership and active reps.

The report also highlights some of the benefits more traditionally associated with unions including:

  • A wage premium – average earnings for union members are £13.07 an hour compared to £11.62 for non-members;
  • Legal representation – in 2007 unions won £300m in compensation for members; and,
  • Better access to training – employees are eight per cent more likely to receive two-five days training in a workplace with a recognised union learning rep.

The Road to Recovery is being published to coincide with the Unions 21 annual conference today, which will include debates on the place of unions in the economic recovery and the political consequences of the election for unions. Speakers at the conference include TUC General Secretary Brendan Barber, Minister for Equalities and Leader of the House of Commons Harriet Harman MP and Higher Education Minister David Lammy MP.

TUC General Secretary Brendan Barber said: ‘Unions are well known for standing up for workers’ rights at work and negotiating decent pay deals – and with so many companies trying to cut and freezes wages unnecessarily that’s an important task.

‘But unions’ work goes well beyond wages and working conditions. By giving staff a voice at work they can help to resolve conflict and reduce the number of people quitting work.

‘Conflict between unions and employers will always generate the headlines. But behind the scenes, many employers are working closely with unions to modernise their workplaces and recover from the recession.’

Additional information:

Case study: Prospect and the Biotechnical and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC)

Prospect represents 1,200 scientific and technical workers with the BBSRC. Employment within government-funded research bodies is insecure as funding streams change considerably and a lot of staff are on short-term contracts. Prospect launched the Opportunities for Change project to deal with the high incidence of redundancies at the BBSRC. The initiative included a number of workshops for staff, including help with job seeking, CV writing, retraining and financial advice. The project has been a success for staff who are making use of the free advice, for the BBSRC who believe the course offers excellent value for money, and for Prospect who are able to recruit and retain members. Further information on the project and other case studies can be found in The Road to Recovery.

– Printed copies of The Road to Recovery are available at £10 each from TUC Publications on 020 7467 1294 as well as being downloadable for free at www.tuc.org.uk/touchstonepamphlets

– To coincide with The Road to Recovery the TUC is publishing two further research papers on the impact of unions on productivity and wellbeing. How Does Innovation Affect Worker Well-being? is available at www.tuc.org.uk/extras/innovationunionsandwellbeing.pdf and Union Organisation and the Quality of Employment Relations is available at www.tuc.org.uk/extras/unionorganisationreport.pdf

– Further information about the Unions 21 annual conference can be found at www.unions21.org.uk/node/121