Through the 1980s and 1990s, membership of Trade Unions declined hugely.Trade Union Membership in the UK was at a high point of 13.2 million in 1979 when Mrs Thatcher Conservative Government came into power. Ironically, by the time Labour returned to power in 1997, that number had dropped to just 7.8 million and the best estimates now stand at 7.7 million. According to research, the present recession appears to have brought about no change in that either. (See http://www.niesr.ac.uk/pdf/010910_144250.pdf for more details).
So what, you might ask? Well, the great advantage of Trade Union membership was that if you had an accident at work, the Union looked after everything. It was essentially free. Accordingly, employers knew that if a Trade Union member suffered an accident at work, then almost inevitably a claim would ensue. The Trade Union convenor would make sure of that.
Now the pressure is much less. Careless employers can afford to ride roughshod over health and safety legislation knowing that in some cases, workers will be too frightened to make a claim if they are injured at work for fear of losing their job. Well, you might say, that does not matter with the huge numbers of claims being made under o win no feearrangements.
However, we know that the ompensation culturedoes not actually exist. There is no evidence to say that more people are making claims now than they were, say, 20 years ago. Whilst some parts of the media are keen to give the impression that wherever there is an accident, some greedy, grasping lawyer is keen to turn it into cash for his client, there appears to be no empirical evidence to support this.
Of course, since when has the lack of facts or evidence prevented the media from running a ublic intereststory?
The sad reality is this, that unless this Government is prepared to allow conditional fee arrangements to exist, so that solicitors can continue to properly represent and help those who have been injured in the workplace, the chances are that careless employers who are keen to cut costs will continue to place workers at risk.
Without Trade Union membership and without access to solicitors who are prepared to run personal injury cases on conditional fee arrangements, it is likely that the workplace will become a riskier place in the future
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