Recent months have seen further evidence of union decline in the anglo-saxon countries. Rates of union membership have fallen further in 2006, as trade union recruitment efforts fails to keep pace with a growing workforce.
In Canada, union membership levels increased by 62,000 in 2006, while union density fell from 30.0% in 2005 to 29.7% in 2006. "Those in the public sector ...were four times as likely as their private-sector counterparts to belong to a union (71.0% versus 17.5%)", writes StatsCanada.
In the United States, the BLS reported in January that 12.0% percent of US employed wage and salary workers were union members in 2006, down from 12.5% a year earlier. "The union membership rate for government workers (36.2 percent) was substantially higher than for private industry workers (7.4 percent)." Less than one in twelve private sector workers are in a union!
The latest Australian union membership data, released earlier this month, reported that the proportion of employees who were trade union members slumped from 22.4% in August 2005 to 20.3% in August 2006. By my calculations (see Excel time series), this was the largest percentage point decline since 1999.
Yesterday saw a similar trend reported in the United Kingdom. According to the latest annual statistical report:
The rate of union membership (union density) for employees in the UK fell by 0.6 percentage points to 28.4 per cent in 2006, down from 29.0 per cent in 2005. This was the largest annual percentage point decline since 1998.
UK public sector union density (58.8) was again much higher than private sector (16.6%). Roland Gribben reports the numbers in today's Telegraph. His piece included this rather upbeat interpretation from British unions:
...but the TUC said the figures in a Trade and Industry Department publication represented a "success story" because membership had almost stabilised since the Thatcher years.
Margaret Thatcher left office in 1990, when union density amongst British employees was 37.8% It is now 28.1%, a decline of one-quarter. That's a rather sanguine interpretation of 'stability'.