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Falling memberships mean trade unions need to change to survive

Trade unions need to make significant changes to their strategy if they want to stay alive under a Conservative government, according to one industry expert.

Andy Cook, managing director of employee relations consultancy Marshall-James, told senior trade union officials at the TUC: "Poor quality reps and political agendas are finding their way into the workplace. Plus there are low levels of membership - particularly in the private sector - resulting in an inability to attract new members. Unions need a clear, pro-active growth and urgent strategy to tackle these issues and there are enormous opportunities for growth."

Cook added membership of trade unions in the private sector has dropped to 16% and in the public sector less than one in 10 employees aged between 16 and 24 is a union member. And he claimed HR professionals and employers think trade unions are "out of touch" with the workforce of today.

"Financial services and the service sector surely provide recruitment potential and a union that can appeal to these workers would certainly make progress. But getting the messages right and talking the language of workers is fundamental. The ‘old boys club' attitude and inter-union fighting will ultimately be the downfall of a movement that should offer a wider appeal and value."