Trade Unions still seen as essential to protecting workers' rights but rise in number seeing them as having too much power

Trade Unions are still seen as important to protecting Britain's workers according Ipsos MORI's latest Political Monitor, but there has been a rise in those thinking they have too much power in Britain today.

Trade Unions still seen as essential to protecting workers’ rights but rise in number seeing them as having too much power Londoners more likely to support limiting right to strike than rest of country

Trade Unions are still seen as important to protecting Britain’s workers according Ipsos MORI’s latest Political Monitor, but there has been a rise in those thinking they have too much power in Britain today. Three quarters (77%) of the public agree that trade unions are essential to protecting workers’ interests while just 14% disagree with this statement.

However, there has been a rise in those feeling that trade unions have too much power in Britain today from 29% in 2014 to 36% today (although 45% disagree) the highest recorded number since August 1990. There are clear differences by political party support with half (51%) of Conservative supporters agreeing unions have too much power (30% disagreeing) compared with one in five (22%) Labour supporters (62% disagreeing). When the public was asked if they think that most trade unions are controlled by extremists and militants one in four (25%) agree while most (56%) disagree. Almost half (48%) however believe that Labour should not be so closely linked to trade unions, although this falls to 34% of Labour supporters.

When asked about the potential of limiting strike capabilities within certain public services the public are split when it comes to those who work in the NHS – 48% think they should have their right to strike limited while 49% think they should have the right to strike like any other industry. When it comes to teachers and train drivers however most think that workers in these industries should have the same right to strike as any one else (62% and 61% respectively). Londoners were more likely to support limiting the right to strike than the rest of the country – at 62% for doctors and nurses, 55% for train drivers, and 45% for teachers.

Gideon Skinner, Head of Political Research at Ipsos MORI, said:

“Taking a long view, Britons’ attitudes to trade unions are much less negative than they were in the late 70s/early 80s, while trust in union officials has also increased over the same period. But while there is some reluctance to limit public sector workers’ right to strike, there has been a rise in concern over the power unions hold in recent years, with Conservative supporters the most worried.”

Technical note:

Ipsos MORI interviewed a representative sample of 1,132 adults aged 18+ across Great Britain. Interviews were conducted by telephone 13th – 16th January 2017. Data are weighted to the profile of the population.

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