This week saw the publication of the latest report from the Office
of National Statistics (ONS) on trade union membership - Trade Union Membership 2011.
Overall, the picture on union membership remains bleak, with the number of union members falling slightly (to 6.4m) and the "union density" (the proportion of employees who are in a union) falling slightly (to 26%). There was a slight rise in union membership in the private sector. Union density in the public sector rose slightly as non-members lost their jobs faster than members.
On a more positive note, the "union wage premium" (the difference between average hourly earnings for union members and non-members) continues to rise. In 2011 the premium stood at 8% in the private sector 18% in the public sector. This difference is partly explained by the difference in union density - only 14.1% of private sector workers were in unions compared to 56.5% of public sector workers.
Across the whole workforce, the average hourly earnings for a union member was £14.18 compared to £12.01 for a non-member - a difference of 18.1% which is worth pointing out when people question the value of union organisation.