The Value of Trade Unions in Wales

Trade unions are an integral part of the Welsh Government’s social partnership model, and more broadly an essential part of the economic and social landscape in Wales and across the world. The Wales TUC commissioned the Wales Centre for Public Policy to consider the evidence on the value of trade unions in Wales, and how they might respond to the challenges and opportunities of the current economic and governance context.

This commission was split into two parts. The first part is an evidence review focusing on the value of trade unions in Wales, grounded in international evidence and analysis of key data. The second is a summary of a roundtable held in the summer of 2019, which brought together key stakeholders from the trade union movement with officials from Welsh Government and the Office for National Statistics, as well as academic experts.

Our evidence review finds that on almost all measures of trade union activity, Wales performs better than most of the UK. As a percentage of the population, there are more members, more recognition agreements, more pro-trade union managers, more union consultations, and more agreement by managers that trade unions improve organisational performance.

However, these findings are based on small sample sizes, presenting a partial picture of the value of trade unions in Wales. There are a number of ways in which this might be addressed, including boosting Welsh samples in existing UK surveys and linking existing datasets to get a fuller picture of trade union value. The new Office of Social Partnership and Fair Work provides an opportunity to maintain these discussions and make further progress.