What was the degree of union density in the UK 1960?

Saya mendapatkan tugas kuliah untuk melakukan documentary research, tidak tahu mengapa saya memilih judul ini. Terlepas dari pentingnya sejarah pergerakkan serikat pekerja di Inggeris, saya sebenarnya tidak memiliki dasar yang cukup kuat untuk membuat tugas ini, tetapi pengalaman selama dua minggu di tahun 2001 untuk mengikuti pendidikan serikat pekerja di departemen pendidikan TUC memberikan kesan yang kuat bahwa tugas tulisan ini dapat saya selesaikan dengan baik. Dan memang benar saya mendapat nilai 1,3 atau A- (A minus. Oh ya nilai atau grade di Jerman menggunakan skala 1 – 5 atau A – F. nilai 1 berarti A dan nilai 5 berarti F).

Mengapa tugas ini akhirnya menjadi menarik bagi saya? bahwa Inggeris sebagai model serikat pekerja  mengalami kemunduran pertumbuhan anggota dimulai ketika rezim pemerintah konservatif yang dipimpin oleh Margaret Thatcher memegang tampuk kuasa pada tahun 1980an, dan akhirnya sampai saat ini serikat pekerja sulit mengembalikan kekuatannya kembali. Ketika saya mendiskusikan situasi hal ini kepada sahabat saya Fatih, kita akhirnya menemukan definisi baru apa yang disebut serikat pekerja. We have serious tough that throughout the years the unions have developed into a number of forms, influenced by differing political and economic. So the definition of trade union have structured and been structuring as the organisation of the workers to protect their collective economic. politically, social rights and benefits at different spatial level and evolved in different politics throughout the history as a result of the conflicts and struggle between capitalist class and working class.

Menurut Rob Lambert, serikat pekerja sebenarnya memiliki empat source of power: associational power, structural power, symbolic power dan logistical power. Tetapi serikat pekerja sebagai kekuatan institutional power, sering tidak mampu untuk menghadapi transformasi dan ekpansi kapitalis. Kegagalan serikat pekerja sering disebabkan karena tidak memiliki gerakan yang jelas (kontek Indonesia) atau konflik kelas pekerja sendiri yang turut memecah belah keterwakilan kepentingan mereka. Pertanyaannya disini adalah bagaimana seharusnya gerakan baru serikat pekerja? para pendahulu kita telah membuka jalan bagi pergerakan kita, tetapi sepertinya kita tidak mampu menggunakan jalan tersebut atau malah menutup jalan itu sendiri. Gerakan kelas pekerja yang kuat membutuhkan a strong and vibrant labour movement . Kekuatan serikat pekerja adalah di jumlah anggota, power in people, karena bagaimanapun juga big is powerful!

Lagi-lagi minta maaf karena tulisannya masih pakai bahasa Inggeris, tidak sempat menerjemahkan dalam bahasa Indonesia. Omong-omong saya sebenarnya harus menyelesiakan proposal thesis, tetapi sepertinya saya sedang kehabisan ide untuk nulis, sebagai intermezzo maka saya update blog ini.  Semoga bermanfaat. Salam solidaritas


To do documentary research on the above question in the title, it’s necessary to explain the term and background. First, what is Union Density? Second, who are the union in the UK?

According to the National Statistics (2007) definition of union density is the rate of union membership. But, to give limitation and clarify the variable measurement, the National Statistics further describes definition of union density as the proportion of all people in employment who are union members in the UK. This measurement is based on an annual question on trade union membership conducted by the Labor Force Survey since 1989. Calculation on trade union membership in the UK as recorded by official government statistics have begun since 1892.

Who are the union in the UK? UK trade union is the Trade Union Congress (TUC). TUC is the voice of Britain (Britain is used informally, usually meaning the United Kingdom (Directgov, 2009)) at work (TUC, 2009) which was formed in Manchester in 1868. The TUC is organized into Regional Council which has eight locations in England, Wales and Scotland. Trade union activity in Scotland is run by the Scottish Trade Union Congress (STUC) as an independent organization and separate from TUC, but these organizations have a close cooperation (Ibid).

TUC has a long history of labor movement since its establishment, but history of its labor struggle has been much longer. In 1815 the government performed economic transformation from agrarian and rural communities into centres of industrial production. These centres of course absorbed more laborers, but there was always a consequence from changed economic structure which was a ‘class struggle’, as said by Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels in the Manifesto of the Communist Party (1848) ‘the history of all hitherto existing society is the history of class struggle ‘. So, the timeline of working class struggle as depicted in image below has started since 1815. Along with the growth of industry in 1825 union also grew rapidly and especially in the factory-based textile industry. Women were prominent in these unions (Union History Online). As we know, union was not merely an instrument for protecting and improving workers living standards but also to be a vehicle for changing the entire political and economic order in society.

But unfortunately, I do not have official records related to union memberships prior to 1892 because as said above official registering had only commenced at the time as shown chart below:

Based on the above question, what was union density in the UK in 1960? Were there important events at the time which gave impact on labor movement in the UK? To answer the questions based on documentary research, then it’s crucial to bring historical context into discussion. I found out some information from TUC itself which neatly and systematically documented events and activities undertaken by this organization either on-line, Union History Online, or stored in TUC Archives at the Modern Records Center at the University of Warwick Library[1] (Ibid) and also through the National Achieves (online).

UK trade union experienced many challenges after Second World War ended, but politically firmament by supporting labor party allowed union to get benefit from, especially at times when labor party came into power after The War with (1945-1951) and wanted to build a new society by recognizing contribution of all British people to war efforts. But labor party’s defeat in the 1951 election put the country under the conservative government for 2 elections afterward consecutively, 1955 and 1959. This situation led to a decline in industrial relations as the government tried to control prices and wages resulting from slow growth in the British economy, and especially when the government also tried to assess legal position of trade union, particularly the issue of the ‘closed shop’ which meant a worker could not be employed in a particular factory or production line unless he / she was a member of the relevant union (The National Archives Online).

According to records in National Archives Online, there were 9.8 million union members in 1960, or according to OECD notes regarding data on trade union density in OECD Countries 1960-2007, union density in 1960 was 40.4%. What is more interesting is Fairbrother and Yates’ estimation (2003) that the number of UK trade union members in 1960 was lower than the record of the National Archives Online which was only around 9.4 million (the exact figure was 9,437,000) and the union density was 44.0%.

Union density has been important thing among other things because it would be a yardstick or key performance indicators of a union. Changes in union density have been often associated with changes in economic policy framework that affects a country’s industry or sector. Union density in UK had its peak position in 1979, 55.4% with a total membership of 13 million. But, after that trade union in UK significantly declined particularly during 1980s as Conservative government led by Margaret Thatcher came into power during which the government abandoned Keynesian full-employment policies in favor of reducing inflation, deregulating labor markets, restricting union growth through changes to industrial relations institutions and eroding the welfare state (Fairbrother and Yates, 2003). It seemed the situation made TUC in ‘difficulty’ to restore union strength because according to the latest record union density in UK in 2008 was 27.4%.


A National Statistics Publication: Trade Union Membership 2008, United Kingdom: Department of Business Enterprise and Regulatory Reform (online) http://stats.berr.gov.uk/uksa/tu/TUM2008.pdf,last retrieved, October 28, 2009.

Directgov (2009): Key Facts About the United Kingdom (Online), http://www.direct.gov.uk/en/Governmentcitizensandrights/LivingintheUK/DG_10012517,last retrieved on October 27, 2009

Fairbrother, Peter and Yates, Charlotte A.B (2003): Trade Union in Renewal: A Comparative Study. Oxon: Routledge

Marx, Karl and Engels, Fredrick (1848): Manifesto of the Communist Party (Online), http://www.marxist.org/archive/marx/works/1848/communist-manifesto/,last retrieved on October 27, 2007

Office for National Statistics (2007): Union Membership, Union Density Down Slightly in 2006 (Online), published on 19 April 2009 at 10.00 am: http://www.statistics.gov.uk/CCI/nugget.asp?ID=4,last retrieved on October 27, 2009

OECD: Trade Union Density in OECD Countries (1960-2007) (Online), http://www.oecd.org/dataoecd/25/42/39891561.xls, last retrieved October 28, 2009

The National Archives: 1950 – 1964 Trade Unions and Post War Consensus (Online), http://www.nationalarchives.gov.uk/cabinetpapers/alevelstudies/1950-trade-unions.htm,last retrieved on October 27, 2009

Trade Union Congress: About The TUC (Online), http://www.tuc.org.uk/the_tuc/index.cfm,last retrieved on October 27, 2009

Warwick Library: The Modern Record Centre: A Unique Resource (Online), http://www.warwick.ac.uk/services/library/mrc,last retrieved on October 27, 2009

[1] Unfortunately, the author is only able to read the catalog displayed on-line in Modern Record Centre of the University of Warwick Library. The author has contacted the library to get fully access, but the answer from Mr. Martin Sanders, Senior Assistant Archivist, it was impossible for me to have fully specify information for this documentary research (e-mail was replied on 29 October 2009 at 4.46 PM)

Kassel, Germany: 4th November 2009


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