Representing about two million public and private sector workers, Britain's largest ever trade union was launched on May 1 following the merger of two workers' bodies. Amicus and the Transport and General Workers' Union have merged to form Unite, while the date of its official creation was timed to coincide with international workers' day on May 1.
Unite will represent British workers in a wide variety of sectors -- ranging from agriculture, construction, finance, food, manufacturing and transport. The new group will also represent many contract workers, and will have a strong presence in public services and the voluntary sector. Unite will be headed by Derek Simpson and Tony Woodley, who were general secretaries for Amicus and TGWU respectively. Members from both unions had voted earlier this year in favor of the merger. Unite becomes Britain's biggest trade union ahead of Unison, its nearest rival, which has approximately 1.3 million members.
"Unite is uniquely placed to build an international trade union, capable of protecting working people of all ages from exploitation, whoever they work for," Simpson said.
Trade unions are increasingly losing influence in Britain, despite the country being governed by the Labour Party, which was traditionally a key supporter of workers' organizations.
Copyright Agence France-Presse, 2007