But union power matters and the primary reason it matters is probably less to do with union membership levels per se (though that’s important) and more to do with the incidence of collective bargaining in the economy. This graph gives a Europe-wide picture of the correlation between income inequality and collective bargaining. With France and Belgium which have vastly different levels of trade union membership (Belgium relatively high, France very low) both performing far better than the UK on the gini coefficient, but both sharing similar levels of collective bargaining.
It is therefore important to understand the Government’s current attack on trade unions to be aimed at further undermining our collective bargaining power. The Government calculates that it can achieve this by attacking union capacity through reducing time off for reps and wrapping unions in red-tape meanwhile undermining the potential for, and the effectiveness of industrial action.