Is industrial action undemocratic? Let’s bust that myth

The government’s legislative plans for the year ahead include a Trade Unions Bill that would create a 50% voting threshold for union strike ballot turnouts, and a requirement that 40% of those entitled to vote must back action in essential public services – health, education, fire and transport.

 

A government spokesperson said: “…we will legislate to stop undemocratic industrial action…”

 

But under the Trade Unions Bill a ballot in which half of those eligible to vote took part would require 80% to vote “Yes” to make action legal. A positive vote of 79.9% on a 50% turnout is undemocratic, according to the government.

 

So, how does this compare to the system that elected that government? 24.4% of all people eligible to vote backed the Conservatives – far less than the 40 per cent threshold it wants to impose on trade union members.

 

Should the government wish to legislate in a democratic way it should look to the polling. Most of the British public support the right to strike for workers. In particular, according to YouGov: Post office workers (64%), bus drivers (64%), refuse collectors (61%), railway and underground workers (60%), social workers (57%) and teachers (53%). Indeed, more people support the radical idea of a right to strike for the armed forces than voted Conservative at the election.

 

The TUC identifies that the Trade Unions Bill would effectively end the right to strike. A democratically minded government would be supporting the wishes of the majority – and protecting industrial action as one of the most essential checks and balances in any democracy. A modernising government would legislate to allow electronic voting in ballots for industrial action to increase the turnout and therefore the legitimacy of any vote.

John Park’s article on Rebalancing the Economy

Today Unions21 was at Scottish TUC Congress with a standing-room-only fringe event in Ayr entitled: ‘The rebalancing act: How should we tackle inequality?’ . The event was the Scottish launch of Unions21′s recent publication ‘Rebalancing the Economy’. The speakers were Mick Whelan, Drew Smith MSP, Manuel Cortes, Dave Penman and Ann Henderson.

To coincide with the event, John Park contributed the following article:

 

John Park, AGS of Community

It’s hard not to feel that we have spent too much time  in Scotland focusing on the differences between us and our nearest neighbours, as opposed to looking at the issues that jointly concern workers across the UK. The inequality that affects many parts of England, Wales and Northern Ireland prevails in many parts of Scotland too. During the last few years in Scotland we haven’t been finding solutions for  those issues but we’ve become good at discussing where power lies (or doesn’t) and the processes that surround decision makers.

 

Scotland hasn’t been a policy-free zone however. There has been a different path followed by the Scottish Government since 2007. The question is though, has this path done enough to address or even consider the specific micro-economic factors that affect Scottish communities?

 

One of the most troubling factors as a Scot, who worked across the UK during the independence referendum, was the assertion that Scots somehow had more of a social conscience than our friends and colleagues in other parts of the UK. The reality in policy terms is about as far away from the assertion as you can get. Over the last seven or eight years, the Scottish Government has introduced a number of eye-catching universal policies which at face value appear to be progressive. But for every free bus pass, there has been a cut in elderly care services; for every free university place, there has been a cut in college places; and for every free prescription, the queue in A&E has got longer. These policies have not been redistributive; they haven’t addressed regional inequalities in any way and have arguably benefited some of the better off  – creating a bigger gap between the rich and poor.

 

The components are there for a better Scotland. Trade unions are involved and have played a positive role in post-devolution politics in Scotland. Unions are very much viewed as social partners – certainly in a bilateral sense – although there is still very little tripartite engagement between government, trade unions and business. Despite the potential in this relationship between trade unions and government, trade union membership in Scotland either falls faster or grows more slowly than in any other part of the UK. There could be a number of factors that feed into those figures but given the apparently sympathetic view of the role of trade unions and their involvement, it is disappointing that more progress hasn’t been made in terms of consolidating and growing trade union membership in Scotland. This means that thousands of workers in Scotland – particularly those in the private sector – are not benefiting from the safer, smarter and more rewarding workplace environment that responsible trade unionism delivers.

 

Perhaps there isn’t a real appetite currently for the level of engagement needed to be an influential social partner? This could be down to the reluctance of many trade unions in Scotland being seen to work in partnership (at least publicly) with employers and the business community more generally.

 

Notwithstanding the complications the constitutional debate has brought to Scotland over the last few years there  has also been a poor level of serious discussion about the issues facing the Scottish economy – many of which are similar to those facing other parts of the UK.

 

Before the financial crash in 2008, business organisations used to complain about “red tape” and the “crowding out” of the private sector by the public sector. (Read employment rights for “red tape” and public sector spending for “crowding out”.) The red tape argument still has some resonance within certain sections of society, while, ironically, the crowding out argument has morphed into the need for government to support industry through procurement.

 

This needs to improve. There has to be a more sensible, measured and constitution-free discussion about the future direction of Scotland. Any union that regularly engages with the issues facing its members and the companies they work for will tell you that the current economic debate in Scotland doesn’t bear any resemblance to the issues that have to be dealt with in individual workplaces, different sectors and various industries. These issues are often global, most definitely strategic and in many cases common to other parts of the UK and Europe.

 

Again, the components are there. The Scottish Parliament has a range of new powers on the blocks. Scotland is uniquely placed amongst the regions of England, Wales and Northern Ireland to make decisions about the specific problems we face as a country within the pooled resources of the UK.

 

We would hope that the constitutional question now begins to settle and we can now have a real debate about the kind of Scotland that Community’s members want to live and work in. From our perspective it’s not complicated. We want to see a Scotland that has good jobs and puts fair employment at the heart of meeting the challenge of globalisation. We want to see a growing and more relevant trade union movement – a movement that uses that growth and renewed relevance responsibly in the interests of all. Above all, we want to see a Scotland where anyone, no matter their background, can go on to fulfil their potential and play their part in Scotland’s future.

Why So Few Women Are in Positions of Power

This snappy title for a new book by former trade union leader, John Edmonds and former teacher/adviser on equality, Eva Tutchell, should influence the important current debate around that topic. As their focus is on the workplace, it should interest all active trade unionists.  The book has a striking cover design showing the different roads to success of men and women in blue and red, and with unerring timing, Man-Made could catapult this issue to the forefront of the general election campaign.

 

Of course, all the political leaders – even the coalition parties are already paying lip-service to the ideal of gender equality in the higher echelons of companies, public bodies and generally in the economy and society.  But by recording the stories of over 100 women, (including five current or former trade union leaders), who have broken through the usual barriers to success, Man-Made adds a new ingredient and urgency to the policy debate.  Here is testimony which cannot be easily dismissed or brushed-aside by policy-makers in government, whoever forms the government after May 7th.

 

Man-Made’s recommendations are for a radical programme of positive action which would give extra advantages to women so as to balance the gender gap.  It calls for a transformation of our current culture and significant changes in the law. These include:

  • Better enforcement of equality legislation;
  • Greater transparency in appointments and pay;
  • Introduction of quotas, targets and in-house equality programmes;
  • Introduction of a scheme offering work breaks

 

As you would expect from authors with considerable experience and practical knowledge of the system, their case is extremely well-argued and thoughtful. It is clearly pitched at opinion-formers and policy-makers across the political spectrum and will probably be all the more influential for that. Nonetheless, they are under no illusions but that some of their ideas, particularly quotas, will encounter serious opposition, depending on the political complexion of the next  Parliament.

 

Although the quotas system will be the more controversial, perhaps their most interesting idea is the work breaks scheme, based as it is on ‘the explosion of longevity’ which is extending everybody’s working lives. They suggest that men and women should be given funded breaks of up to three years to enable them to share child-care responsibilities more equally, while they take the opportunity of bringing their academic and vocational skills up to date in the face of further technological change.

 

This may be ‘an idea whose time has come’ and trade unionists  could have a special role in promoting it. Man-Made will be an essential tool to equip the proposed equality reps in making the case in every workplace.

Rachel Reeves, Maternity Leave and CWU Youth

The utterly appalling  and reactionary howls that  greeted Rachel Reeve’s maternity  leave plans  remind us that although we have come a long way,  there is still just as far to go on when it comes to recognising that (1) women have babies and (2) women can have babies and hold down  jobs too.

 

Of course, the  point some commentators and others  was making  was  it wasn’t the  “baby”  bit of this  that  is a problem – but the maternity leave.

 

It is an unavoidable issue that for the human race to survive, we need to reproduce. If we reproduce, our offspring and their parents need to be looked after. The quality of the “looking after” stuff makes a big difference to other things – life chances, health, wellbeing,  etc.

 

But – and let’s not fudge this issue -having staff absent from work can be disruptive. But just because it can be doesn’t mean it has to be.

 

Here in the Communication Workers’’ Union, we have been trying to address these issues. Our national youth committee has now had numerous young women members who have taken maternity leave during their term of office. Committee members are all lay representatives – they are not our employees. So while the companies that employ them are obliged under he law and their collective agreements with us to release them from duty, what about their union work?

 

There are all sorts of issues here; if you are on leave, then surely that’s it – you are away from work full stop. How can the demands of occupying a national representative position be compatible with caring for an entirely dependent very young child?  If you are absorbed in your new baby’s welfare, how can you concentrate on union work?

 

But on the other hand,  if we happened to have a number of  women away on maternity leave at the same time,  that  would denude  effective membership of the committee.  The classic “impact on small organisations” scenario.

 

Let’s try and nail a few of these issues.

 

Setting aside the trend towards parental (or adoptive) leave, as well as maternity leave, we have shown that it is possible to turn a pessimist’s problem into to an optimistic solution.

 

Funnily enough, we knew that   there would be a need to manage a maternity leave vacancy on the committee some time in advance – usually around 4-5 months. So this should not be something that catches peole by surprise.

 

Even in democratic organisations,  when decisions can sometimes take longer to make,  there is time  to take soundings  and secure agreement – in this case  for  someone to be co-opted to the  committee to cover the  maternity leave.

 

Our youth committee is comprised of regionally and occupationally based representatives.  So we agreed to co-opt someone from the same geography and ideally the same industrial sector as the person on leave. But above all we were clear that the co-optee had to be a woman to preserve the gender balance of the committee.

 

But we did not want to disadvantage the person on maternity leave – nor lose her input into decisions.  So the committee agreed to  maintain contact with her, but recognised  that  she may not always  want to  to  contribute to  virtual  debates  or email exchanges.

 

We adopted a similar approach   with attendance at committee meetings and events.  If our colleague on maternity leave is able to attend, that would be great.  Would we expect her to attend? No, not necessarily.  The approach was designed to keep women on maternity leave involved, without making any presumptions about what that involvement would mean in practical terms.

 

And of course, we make sure that appropriate practical support is available, in terms of arrangements for partners to travel with mothers.

 

On some occasions, the member on maternity leave and their maternity leave cover would attend the same meeting.  But any potential problems about who gets to use the vote associated with one place on the committee that they are both associated with, is overcome by discussion before –hand.

 

On one occasion, a colleague insisted on standing down from the committee because of her baby being due. The committee promptly co-opted her for the duration of her maternity leave.

 

All these things are not charitable acts. That would be arguably patronising in the extreme.  As a union, we need to do more to attract and retain young activists, and young women activists. Women are after all over 50% of the UK workforce.   Without the steps  outlined above,  we would have lost  the  expertise, insight,  involvement and  support  of young women in the very leadership positions  needed to  promote  better ways of working.

 

So we should loudly proclaim our support for Rachel Reeves for identifying as someone who will demonstrate that the sort of work-life balance that promotes a better society is both desirable and achievable. If she can do it in that set of circumstances, the doom-laden nay-sayers will be forced to think again.

 

Originally published on the CWU Youth blog: http://www.cwuyouth.org/view-blog.html?blog_id=404

Workplace injuries cost billions and ruin lives, but this government is determined to rollback vital health and safety laws

Victoria Phillips is head of employment rights at Thompsons Solicitors

The ground-breaking Health and Safety at Work Act is 40 years old and there has been a lot of progress over the years which should be celebrated. Britain is one of the safest countries in the world for workers and HSE statistics show that fatalities at work are on the decline.

 

But there is no cause to rest on our laurels. The most recent statistics show that for those 133 workers who were killed last year and anyone who took any of the 28.2 million working days lost to work-related ill health or injury, injury, ill-health and death at work are not a thing of the past.

 

As those concerned with improving the statistics further reflect on the successful impact of the Act over the years, this government is moving health and safety backwards. It’s now de rigueur for Tory MPs and ministers (ably assisted by their Lib Dem stooges and their mates in the media) to lampoon health and safety and dismiss anything associated with it as “red tape”.

 

Any death and any injury at work is a tragedy. At Thompsons we know how unnecessary and how avoidable they almost always are. Avoidance isn’t rocket science, it’s often blindingly basic.

 

No government should rest on its laurels. Certainly, no government should take action that could risk a deterioration in health and safety and yet that’s exactly what we are witnessing. It’s a dismissive arrogance of the worst kind.

 

It appears that laws introduced and respected by the courts since the times of the Victorian factory can be thrown aside. Strict Liability can be junked and self-employed workers removed from health and safety laws. Written agreements with insurers to stitch up mesothelioma sufferers and their families (over 2,500 people died of the fatal cancer mesothelioma, caused by exposure to asbestos last year) are pushed through parliament. Misstating the words of the Professor you appoint to review health and safety is fine if you can get away with it (which thankfully due to some good old fashioned leaking they haven’t).

 

The insurers are happy (a billion £’s in dividends from two car insurers when there’s meant to be a so-called whiplash fraud ‘crisis’). Lawyers being slapped down and straight jacketed into deals that limit their ability to get the maximum amount of compensation is dressed up for the media as a great advance. The judicial establishment get their wish for injured people to ‘have some skin in the game’ – i.e. face deductions from compensation to pay their lawyers – and all the while backbenchers can belittle and scoff and make health and safety a joke. You can even feed them red meat by seeking to blame it all on those pesky Europeans.

 

At a time when the battle for proper health and safety is gradually being won the last thing we need is a government more concerned with winning favourable headlines in tabloids and currying favour with powerful corporate interest groups than taking proactive steps to ensure that workplace injury and ill-health really become things of the past. But that’s what we’ve got and the battle goes on.

 

Winchester Needs a Pay Rise

I was looking forwards to making an occasion of the TUC’s Britain Needs a Pay Rise march and rally in October until we had to back out when my son caught a tummy bug. I had experienced TUC marches before, and found them suitable for sharing with friends and family and we consoled ourselves with knowing that our little one had enjoyed his first march at Tolpuddle earlier this year.

 

This experience was probably what provided me with the final push I needed to motivate me to join together with local friends, trade union representatives and campaigners in Hampshire to raise the profile of low pay rises and the living wage. This being one of the broad, mainstream, trade union issues featured in the TUC’s Campaign Plan in the run-up to the general election.

 

We know that the gap between the minimum wage and the living wage is rising as the cost of living continues to outstrip pay. Real wages of full-time workers in the South East fell by £2500 between 2010 and 2013. This is causing families to have to cut back and make difficult decisions on spending, we are seeing a rise in the use of food banks and payday loans and, as the mystery Prospect member puts into words much better than can I, this is effecting the squeezed middle.

 

The TUC believes that many employers can afford to pay more without putting jobs at risk, and this is especially the case for the lowest paid. They want us to urge more local employers to make sure their staff and those in their supply chains get at least the living wage.

 

All of us felt that these were real issues that we had experienced in our families, workplaces and communities and could directly relate to, however we wanted to involve the broader local community in our campaign.

 

We decided to set up the Winchester & District Trades Council (W&DTC) to help us to pursue this aim and, in doing so, to promote a positive message of trade unions to a public who may be less familiar with the benefits we offer to society. Read More…

What did the EU ever do for working people?

Joe Dromey photo

Joe Dromey is Head of Policy and Research at the IPA

The UK’s often turbulent relationship with the European Union seems to be getting stormier by the day. With UKIP support rising to record levels, the Conservatives have been pushed into an increasingly Eurosceptic position, promising reforms that look impossible to deliver. Our future within the EU looks more uncertain than ever before.

 

Leaving the EU would be disastrous for working people. The argument over the importance of the EU for jobs and investment in the UK is well-known; millions would have their livelihoods threatened if we did pull out. Less understood though is the importance of the EU for rights at work in the UK.

 

Recent research by the IPA has aimed to address this gap. As it has shown, the EU has played a central role in strengthening and expanding workplace rights in the UK. Take for example the right to paid breaks, paid holiday and a maximum working week, or the right to equal treatment for ‘atypical’ workers – the part-time, agency and fixed-term staff who are in fact increasingly typical in today’s labour market. Take the Information and Consultation of Employees regulations that guarantee workers a voice at work, or the TUPE legislation that protects employees whose employer’s business is being sold. These rights have made a real difference to working people.

 

In fact, this is one of the reasons that the EU is so unpopular with those on the right. Along with the free movement of labour, it is the protection that the EU offers working people that so irritates Eurosceptics. Having these rights enshrined at a European level means they can act as a bulwark against competition driving down employment standards in a ‘race to the bottom’. While the Coalition have pursued a deregulatory agenda and slashed employment rights, it is only the rights protected by EU legislation that have escaped unscathed.

 

But are we over-regulated and over-burdened by ‘EU red tape’? In explaining why Britain might be better off out, Boris Johnson recently decried the ‘back breaking’ weight of EU employment regulation that is helping to fur the arteries to the point of sclerosis.’ Of course, this is complete nonsense. The UK still has one of the least regulated labour markets in the developed world and employees in this country are far less protected than those in most of Europe. And although employers may grumble about employment regulation, the vast majority see it as a price worth paying for access to the single market.

 

The union movement has often had an uneasy relationship with the EU. Initially suspicious of the European project, unions were won over by Jacques Delors’ inspiring vision of a ‘Social Europe’ that protects and enhances workers’ rights and prosperity. However, this enthusiasm seems to have cooled recently. With the lack of any significant new social legislation, as well as the role of the EU in supporting austerity and perceived threats to collective bargaining from the Viking and Laval judgements, unions have becoming increasingly equivocal about our membership of the EU. Some, notably the RMT, are actively campaigning for the UK to leave. It’s a strange situation when a supposedly progressive trade union finds itself on the same side of the argument as Farage and co.

 

It is more important than ever for trade unions to engage with this debate. Unions have a vital role to play in countering reactionary Eurosceptics who would renegotiate or withdraw from the European Union in order to slash employment rights. The union movement needs to speak up for the EU, and highlight the immeasurable benefits that membership of the EU has brought working people. From protection against discrimination and rights for working parents; to paid holiday and voice at work, the EU has made the workplace fairer and better. It has delivered real, tangible benefits for working people. The EU is not perfect, but trade unions need to continue to fight for the vision of a Social Europe.

 

Joe Dromey is Head of Policy and Research at the IPA. He writes in a personal capacity. The findings of the research will be discussed at an event on 27th November, hosted by Lord John Monks, former General Secretary of the TUC and ETUC. For more details and to reserve a place, see here.

WHY THIS NHS PAY DISPUTE MATTERS TO US ALL

Paul Moloney is a member of the Unions21 Steering Committee and Industrial Relations Manager for the Society of Radiographers

The forthcoming NHS pay dispute is likely to involve up to 10 TUC and non-TUC affiliated unions taking some form of strike action, with all unions with members in the NHS involved in the wider campaign. At the time of writing, Unison, Unite, GMB and, significantly the Royal College of Midwives have already announced overwhelming majorities of members have voted for industrial action to take place on 13th October.

 

Other unions, including my own the Society of Radiographers, have also announced yes votes and will be joining the action at a later date.

 
The dispute will therefore involve a widespread coalition of NHS workers from porters to consultants including of course the radiographers, sonographers, mammographers and many others working in diagnostic imaging and radiotherapy represented by my own union. Although not unique it is unusual to find such a widespread coalition of workers, covering such a range of expertise, taking action over pay.

 
Union members working in the NHS, at all levels, fully understand what has happened to their pay in recent years. Our own calculations show that members pay rates have lost nearly 15% of their purchasing power over the last 5 years. A period during which members have suffered 4 pay freezes and one solitary pay increase of just 1%. It is no wonder they are angry but it is a tribute to their professionalism and sense of commitment to the community that they have put up with things for so long. In fact, if the Government had honoured the recommendation of the Independent Pay Review Body (IPRB) and granted the 1% increase they recommended this year then we probably wouldn’t be entering into a dispute now with member’s patience enduring for another year….just!

 
But the Government crossed a line by ignoring that recommendation and then informing the IPRB that it was not seeking a recommendation from them for next year, thus condemning NHS workers to yet another pay freeze.

 
What makes this dispute so important, however, is that this decision was not a tactical error on the part of a Government that had miscalculated the feeling among our members and those of other unions. Instead the decision is deeply ideologically and shows exactly what it is this government now wants to achieve on behalf of the people it represents.

 
Throughout UK post war history there has been a consensus around the idea that working people have a share in economic growth. There may be deep differences over how much of a share but no one has argued that the general population should not see improved standards of living as society creates wealth. When union negotiators over the years have achieved increases in pay that exceed the increase in prices they have been ensuring that generally working people can see their standard of living improve. And, as a result, throughout the post war period average earnings have increased more quickly than the Retail Prices Index.

 
This came to an abrupt halt with the banking crises and the subsequent austerity measures. By continuing to hold back NHS employees pay for at least the next two years it is clear that this government wants to break this link for good even as the economy improves. They are using the NHS to influence the economy as a whole, it is of course the biggest employer in the UK, by sending a message to all employers in both the public and private sectors to follow their lead and end the consensus that working people should share in the wealth created by seeing the purchasing power of their income improve over time. Instead, they are creating the environment where the owners of capital see a further disproportionate increase in their share of wealth created entirely at the expense of working people.

 
So this is a dispute that we have to win. Not just for our members, although we must not lose sight of the fact that this is their dispute, but for trade unionists across the country in all sectors, public and private. In fact, for everyone who believes an increasing unequal distribution of wealth is not only unfair but also bad economics, including the Governor of the Bank of England, who also seems to recognise that running an economy purely for the benefit of some and not for all, is inefficient. For our members and those on the left generally it is of course not only inefficient but deeply unfair and potentially harmful.

 
NHS employees will decide what sort of action this attack on them deserves and it will certainly include widespread strike action. In doing this they will exercise the same level of professional judgement they use every day of their working lives and will make decisions that will put the interests of patient first, contrary no doubt to the portrayal of their actions in some sections of the media. It is essential however that all in the labour movement recognise what is at stake.

 
Of course Britain needs a pay rise, but if Labour politicians seriously believe this, then they need to clearly demonstrate support for NHS workers in this dispute and make absolutely sure they are prepared to also show leadership on behalf of all working people by encouraging wages across the whole economy to grow faster than prices when elected returning to a consensus that has only recently been attacked and that even Margaret Thatcher couldn’t pull apart. Success in the forthcoming election depends on it.

 

Paul Moloney
Trade Union and Industrial Relations Manager
Society of Radiographers
September 2014

In the grip of a low pay epidemic

Victoria Phillips is head of employment rights at Thompsons Solicitors

The Work Foundation recently published its final report on the prospects for workers earning less than £15,000 a year.

 

Readers of the study can only be appalled that low pay now affects a staggering 5.1 million employees (21 per cent of the UK workforce) and that over a quarter of these workers will remain stuck in low pay for over a decade.

 

When the National Minimum Wage (NMW) was brought-in in 1999, it was one of the most significant planks of Labour policy. But the current Tory-led regime has failed to give it the status it deserves. Serial offenders have been left to get away with NMW non-compliance and the government has chosen to severely under resource the teams who enforce it.

 

The scale of the UK’s low wage epidemic is a deliberate product of this government’s anti-worker agenda. The mantra that employment prospects are looking up appears shaky when you consider the detail. The reduction in unemployment has been fuelled by a rapid increase in the number of people identifying as “self-employed”, while many others have been forced into part-time and zero hours work where they had previously worked full-time.

 

Serious wage deflation means that increasing numbers are being pushed to take low-paid work that is near-impossible to survive on, with many workers having to begrudgingly seek the help of the state benefits system – not to mention food banks – to keep their families fed, clothed and housed.

 

The Work Foundation’s report makes worthwhile recommendations for how the UK can pursue a fairer wage distribution and begin the fight back against Conservative Party policy and the parochial interests of the big business lobby who control it.

 

One obvious step, the report suggests, would be for the government itself to set best practice by having its departments and local authorities aiming to become Living Wage employers. Unless the government gets its own house in order there is little hope of encouraging the private sector to do so.

 

Another simple move would be for the Low Pay Commission to increase the NMW at a faster rate than average earnings over the next few years. If the economy is really recovering then it is crucial that those at the bottom of the pay scale should be able to feel the effects not just those at the top.

 

Unions are leading the way to fight the low pay epidemic in the national interest. We must all continue to do so.

 

The full Work Foundation report can be read at http://www.theworkfoundation.com/DownloadPublication/Report/365_BottomTenMillionFinalPaper.pdf

 

The Union Website League Table – How Did You Do?

I’ve recently published the trade union website league table for 2014. The table isn’t an attempt to judge the content, design or functionality of the sites, rather it reflects how important each website is seen to be in the eyes of search engines, based on a number of standard website metrics.

 

I’ve been regularly working for and with unions for years, but since founding Infobo I’ve been working in the private sector as well. I’ve noticed one big difference between the two sectors when it comes to requests for services. In the private sector, the demand for website search engine optimisation (SEO), the art of making a website appear as high as possible in search engine results, is huge. However, unions I’ve worked with had little awareness of the area or the implications of getting it right.

 

For private sector companies, getting their products or services to appear near the top of relevant search engine results leads directly to more sales and clients, but for unions the benefit is less tangible. However, one of the key areas for unions is campaigning and influencing.

 

One way of doing this is by delivering a message through the union’s website. The more people who come across this message and visit the union’s website, the greater the influence that union has online. As most visitors to websites arrive through search engines, then search engine optimisation (SEO) provides a great opportunity for unions to increase visitors and therefore influence.

 

There are two key aspects to search engine optimisation (SEO):

  • Configuring a website to work well and send the right signals to search engines – this is known as ‘on-site optimisation’.
  • Getting links to your website from other websites – known as ‘off-site optimisation’.

The trade union website league table focuses on the second of these. It takes an average score from key metrics like Domain Authority and Google PageRank to reflect the quality and quantity of links to a website. Basically, it reflects how often a union is being mentioned and linked to on the web. The higher the score, the more likely the website is to appear high up in search engine results.

 

The most recent union website league table can be seen at http://www.infobo.com/trade-union-website-league-table-2014, while below is a summary of developments in the league table:

  • Unite are the highest ranked union, knocking UNISON into second place for the first time.
  • Unions that are also professional associations, such as the Chartered Society of Physiotherapy and the British Dietetic Association, perform very well.
  • Prospect sees the biggest improvement in the table, moving up six places.
  • The Society of Chiropodists and Podiatrists, NUT and the British and Irish Orthoptic Society all also improve significantly on 2013.
  • PCS has the largest fall, moving down seven places.

This is the third year I’ve carried out this research. You can also view the results for 2012  and 2013   to see how the results has changed over the last few years.

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