Workplace union representatives can also provide appropriate information,
guidance and support to employees in the raising of issues and the resolving of
What may surprise some people is that union representative activity also has the potential to benefit employers. Studies show that employee morale and engagement can be improved by a management that listens to staff concerns, and union representatives help staff get these concerns heard and acted upon. As a result improved staff morale can lead to increased productivity and improved quality of service, all things greatly beneficial to an organisation's performance.
Workplace union representatives can also help organisations reduce the cost and impact of labour disputes, advising managers as well as staff to bring about swifter resolutions. Such exchanges of information can also lead to improved employment practices, reducing such problems as persistent sickness absence.
Analysing data from the 2011 Workplace Employment Relations Survey, this research further explores the presence and role of union representatives in the British workplace, with particular focus on the public sector. It provides an estimate of the proportion of public sector workplaces that have union representatives, the ratio of reps to employees, and the proportion of public sector workplaces where union reps spend the majority of their time on representative duty.
The paper also provides an empirical assessment of the extent to which union representatives work in consultation with managers, thereby indicating the extent to which they could be deemed to add value to their organisations.
This research is timely, with the new Conservative government's concern that
union representatives are too numerous in the public sector, too disruptive,
too politically motivated and active. These concerns have led to the Trade
Union Bill 2015-16, introduced on first reading to the House of Commons on
15th July 2015.