Decriminalised in 1867 and legalised in 1871, the Trade Unions were first established to improve working conditions for working men here in the UK. They went on to form the Labour Representation Committee which effectively formed the basis of todays Labour Party.
Union reform in the 1980s saw a massive decline in union members, with membership dropping to around 7 million. This stabilised, yet in 2012 membership dropped a further 15% and has continued falling since.
More recently, in the United States a poll revealed that 80% of workers felt the Unions were losing their power and cited amongst their reasons the failure of the Unions to represent their members effectively and political cronyism.
In 1999 a protest group was formed to fight against the IR35 statute and raised enough money in just a few months to represent Contractors in the High Court and deliver a high level of success on behalf of its members.
Yet even the PCG seems to have lost its teeth in recent years as it watches helplessly as its members are dismissed and replaced by Tier 2 migrants. Now, renamed the IPSE, this organisation has been tamed by the Government they once fought with the offer of seats on toothless committees where they debate what is happening to their members instead of represent them.
Meanwhile, the Unite union has watched on impotent as some 21,000 of its members were let go by Hewlett Packard, who were then reported to take on Tier 2 Migrants in their place. Equally impotent was the Public and Commercial Services Union which watched its members be sidelined by the Scottish Government in favour of Tier 2 Migrants more recently, and it is reported that they have even refused to represent members who have been victimised and discriminated against in the process.
The Unions, who once played an important role in working reform here in the UK have become so wrapped up in themselves instead of their members that their effectiveness has been completely compromised; along with their reason to exist.
With the current rate of decline in membership, and the high level of dissatisfaction amongst members it would be reasonable to conclude that the Unions will be confined to the history books in the next ten years or less.