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Emerging trends: New trade unions

The creation of completely new unions - not the results of mergers and breakaways - has been a feature of trade union developments in recent years, according to the Certification Office.

Data recently released by the Certification Officer shows that since the 1980s both the number of trade unions and their members have been gradually declining. Many smaller unions have been dissolved and subsumed into larger bodies. While in the last ten years, the decline of membership numbers has broadly been tapering off, the two largest unions today, Unison and Unite, now account for almost 40 per cent of union membership.

It's against this backdrop that new unions have begun to appear in the last few years. It's been suggested that the phenomenon is a move by otherwise under-represented workers to get recognition and put forward alternative agendas to the larger unions. Some new unions give a voice to workers in a specific sector or region where established unions have little presence. Others seem to have sprung up in the cracks caused by the fragmentation of the industrial structure at a particular organisation.

For example, Myunion was created two years ago by health and social care workers from a minority ethnic background and campaigns for 'multicultural, multi-ethnic working strategies development in the workplace, diversity and green issues'. Another new union, Skyshare, represents jet pilots working for a single company.

It's thought that the trend of the new unions is likely to continue. The Certification office advises people who to establish a new trade union on the legal definition of a trade union and the obligations that trade unions are under.

Visit the Collective disputes section for more information on how we work with Trade Unions to resolve conflict at work.

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