Merger forms new super-union

At the beginning of April 2001, the AEEU engineering trade union and the MSF technical union announced that the proposed merger between the two organisations had been approved in membership ballots. With over 1 million members, the new "super-union" will be the second largest in the UK.

Members of the Amalgamated Engineering and Electrical Union (AEEU) and Manufacturing Science Finance (MSF) have voted overwhelmingly in favour of a merger between the two unions. The resulting "super-union" - still to be named - will be the second largest affiliate of the Trades Union Congress, behind the public services union, Unison, and the largest affiliate of the Labour Party. The AEEU has over 732,000 members whilst the MSF has almost 300,000, giving a combined membership of over 1 million. According to the two merging unions, the new organisation will have assets of over GBP 100 million and an annual income of more than GBP 60 million.

Postal ballots of the memberships of the two organisations were held during March 2001, and the result was officially declared on 2 April. Of those who voted - some 30% in each union - 84% of AEEU members voted to approve the amalgamation, while just under 80% of MSF members voted "yes".

The existing general secretaries of the two unions - Sir Ken Jackson (AEEU) and Roger Lyons (MSF) - will lead the new organisation as joint general secretaries. Sir Ken said in a statement that the new union "[will] have the resources to set the agenda across every sector of the economy". Mr Lyons commented: "The new union will be a force to be reckoned with both industrially and politically, at home and in Europe. Members will see huge benefits by merging our unions. Our campaigning agenda and strength will give people at work the support they need."

The new union will have a particularly strong presence in manufacturing but will also be the largest union in a number of other sectors. Politically, the merger brings together two unions which are committed to the modernisation of industrial relations, particularly via "partnership" arrangements with employers, and are supportive of the "new Labour" agenda of the government.

Discussions about a merger between the two unions began in 1999 (UK9912142N). It has been reported that a further merger - with Unifi, the banking and financial services union (UK9903193N) - is already under consideration by the new union. In other merger activity during the past year, a number of smaller unions have transferred their engagements to larger organisations. Some commentators have compared developments in the UK with the process of union consolidation in Germany where a new Unified Service Sector Union (Vereinigte Dienstleistungsgewerkschaft, Ver.di) was created in March 2001 from five service sector unions with a combined membership of nearly 3 million (DE9911225F).

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