Amy attended this event to learn about the results of a research project about the participation of Polish migrant workers in UK trade unions. This study had been conducted by Dominik Owczarek, Dominika Potkańska and colleagues at the Polish Polish Institute of Public Affairs, alongside Lionel Fulton of the Labour Research Department.
One of the key messages from this event was that there is a significant disparity in unionisation between Polish workers compared to UK national workers (8.2% v 25%). Reasons for this disparity include the high number of Poles employed as temporary workers (union density is 25.7% for permanent workers but only 14.5% for temporary workers); language barriers; unfamiliarity with British trade union system including the effects of cultural differences about the roles of trade unions between the UK and Poland; and fears of victimisation and discrimination from employers for joining or being active within a trade union. The Union Modernisation Fund was seen as crucial to supporting trade union projects to do with migrant workers. Although some trade unions see the organisation of migrant workers as a way to revitalise and diversify trade unions, in the face of generally declining membership, trade union engagement with migrant worker communities could be improved and generally has diminished since the Union Modernisation Fund came to an end. In his presentation, Lionel Fulton drew upon Catherine and Amy’s recent empirical work, which identified disproportionately low use of UK employment tribunals by EU-8 migrant workers to enforce their employment rights.