'History Accounts for Why Wales Is a Union Hotbed' UNION MEMBERSHIP SPILLOVER FROM THE PAST, SAYS STUDY

Western Mail (Cardiff, Wales), June 13, 2012 | Go to article overview

'History Accounts for Why Wales Is a Union Hotbed' UNION MEMBERSHIP SPILLOVER FROM THE PAST, SAYS STUDY


Byline: MARTIN SHIPTON

WELSH workers are more likely to join a union than those living in other parts of Britain for deep-rooted historical reasons, a new study has concluded.

In a paper written for the Industrial Relations Journal, Professor Huw Beynon and fellow Cardiff University academics Rhys Davies and Steve Davies argue that higher union membership rates cannot simply be attributed to the greater size of the public sector in Wales.

Latest UK Government figures show that while 27% of workers in England and 34% in Scotland belong to a union, in Wales the proportion is 37.3%.

While a higher proportion of public sector workers are trade unionists in all three countries - 66.8% in Wales, 65.6% in Scotland and 57.3% in England - Welsh private sector staff are more likely to be union members (22%) than those in Scotland (18.9%) and England (15.6%).

Prof Beynon told the Western Mail: "People have said all sorts of things about why they think Welsh workers join unions in greater proportions than those elsewhere in Britain, but most of the reasons don't stack up when you look at the figures.

"If it was simply to do with there being a larger public sector in Wales, that wouldn't account for the greater degree of private sector workers who choose to join a union. We talked with the regional secretaries of unions in Wales to see what they thought. After many conversations, we came to the conclusion that there were wellfounded historical reasons."

In essence, Prof Beynon and his colleagues concluded that the previously high level of community-based trade union organisation in the coal and steel industries has had an "historical spillover" into the Wales of today that transcends social class.

Mike Payne of the General, Municipal and Boilermakers Union told the research team that when union officials carry out recruitment campaigns in the South Wales Valleys, they often came across managers who express sympathy for what they were seeking to do. …

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