We need our trade unions now more than ever. From now until St Valentine’s Day unions are coming together in Heartunions week promoting the benefits of union membership and raising awareness of the role trade unions play in our communities.
Unions are the voice of Britain at work. More than six million people are a member of a union – from nurses to checkout assistants to lorry drivers to airline pilots.
In fact, trade union membership currently makes up about 25 per cent of the working population in the UK. However, barely 5 per cent of trade union members in the UK are aged 16-24, and more than one third (39 per cent) are aged over 50.
Yet young workers are some of the most vulnerable and are often working in sectors with low or no union presence and without collective agreements, such as in retail, hospitality and outsourced social care. They are the workers who could benefit the most from trade union membership, yet their voice is currently missing from our movement.
Everyone has a legal right to join a union if you wish and it’s illegal for an employer to disadvantage you in any way just because you are a union member.
Trade unions offer individuals protection in the workplace and help to build stronger communities. At a time when many workplaces have become places of casual labour, zero hours contracts and precarious employment, trade unions offer people a sense of solidarity and practical support.
Unions help workers get together, stop people being treated unfairly and get a better deal from employers.
Unions support people at work when times are tough, even providing free legal advice to members.
More than 200,000 people get training and learning opportunities through their trade union that help them develop skills to move on in their career.