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Report highlights role of trade union reps

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The number of trade union representatives has remained broadly stable over the recent recession, according to a recent report.

The report, commissioned by Acas and conducted by Professor Andy Charlwood and David Angrave in Loughborough University's School of Business and Economics, looked at representation in both union and non-union British workplaces.

It found that:

  • In 2011, representatives were spending more time on their representative role (an average of 13 hours per week), and a majority were paid by their employer to do so;
  • Union reps paid greater attention to recruitment and organisation in 2011 than 2004 - in 2011, 80% of reps said they had tried to recruit new members in the last 12 months, compared to 64% in 2004;
  • Union representatives remain more widespread than non-union representatives, with the latter being fewer in number (45,000 compared to 150,000 union representatives), spend less time on their representative role and tend to have a consultative role instead of negotiating over issues that affect the workers they represent;
  • There are signs of a more extensive and formal role for non-union representatives following the introduction of the 2005 Information and Consultation Employees regulations.

"The latest figures demonstrate a long term shift in the types of workers unions represent, from manufacturing and the private sector to the public sector,” commented Professor Charlwood.

"The increase in the number trade union representatives in the public sector is likely to be in a direct response to the recession, as workers experience increasing grievances relating to pay, redundancies, pension cuts and restructuring,” he added.

"Where organisations have systems of worker representation in place, we have seen more frequent meetings between representatives and managers and an increase in the range of issues representatives receive information on, as well as greater resources to carry out their representative role," he concluded.

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