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Equality and Trade Unions


TUC, Equality Audit 2018Women, BME workers and young workers are all under-represented in union positions.

In their Equality Audit 2018, the TUC has looked at the practical steps trade unions are taking to ensure they reflect the diversity of the workforce.

The result has provided examples of how unions are recruiting and supporting under-represented groups into membership and activism. It also looked at what unions are doing to give these groups a voice in their internal union structures.

Regarding labour market diversity and trade union membership, it found that women were more likely than men, and disabled workers more likely than non-disabled workers, to be union members; that BME workers are under-represented among union members; and that young workers are particularly unlikely to be in a union.

It found that three-quarters of the unions responding to the audit have adopted the TUC model equality clause – the same proportion as in 2014 – and nearly all members of unions that responded to the audit are covered by rules or procedures for allegations of discrimination and harassment.

Most unions collect data on the number of women members, but do not monitor the number of members in other equalities groups.

In general, there has been a lack of progress on disaggregated monitoring – data broken down into women, Black and minority ethnics (BME), disabled, LGBT+ and young workers – and in some cases the number of unions collecting disaggregated data has fallen.

Women, BME workers and young workers are all under-represented in union positions, but disabled members are well represented in such roles.

There has been a reduction in the number of unions employing equality officers for specific equality strands, with officers also now more likely to have other responsibilities. But 71 per cent of unions do have at least one member of staff with equality responsibilities at a national level.

In total, 84 per cent of members of unions responding to the audit were in a union with a rule or practice on overall workplace equality reps.

In total, 66 per cent of members of unions that responded to the audit were in unions with women’s reps, 62 per cent with BME reps, 59 per cent with disabled members’ reps, 65 per cent with LGBT+ reps and for young worker reps.

And 57 per cent of the unions that completed the main questionnaire have a formal national overall equality committee.

Increasingly, union members are creating less formal networks, but these are not necessarily replacements for formal committees. In many cases unions have both.

There has been a noticeable drop in the number of individual national conferences held for each equality strand.

Most unions provide training on equality or diversity awareness for lay officials and members, and the proportion doing so has increased from 79 per cent in 2014 to 89 per cent in 2018.

But the proportion of unions encouraging participation in mainstream training by members of equalities groups has fallen since 2014.

A higher proportion of unions are now offering trade union training specifically aimed at BME, LGBT+, disabled and young workers than were four years ago.

In total, 87 per cent of unions responding to the audit have an equal opportunities or non-discrimination policy relating to their own employees, an increase since 2014.

And 82 per cent of unions who responded to the audit have an explicit reference to dealing with harassment and discrimination in their internal complaints, disciplinary or grievance procedures, and 83 per cent of unions provide staff with equality and diversity (E&D) training.

Union monitoring of staff diversity has fallen since 2014. Monitoring rates are highest for women (71 per cent of unions monitor for this group) and BME groups (55 per cent).

Half of unions have equality action plans in place.

Questionnaires were sent to 50 unions who were affiliated to the TUC in November 2017 for completion by the middle of February 2018. Completed questionnaires were received from 38 unions – 76 per cent of affiliates. This is a higher response rate than for the last equivalent audit in 2014. The unions responding in 2018 represent 97 per cent of all TUC-affiliated union members.

To read the full audit, click here.

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