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Workplace trade union activists in UK service sector organising campaigns


  • Melanie Simms

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    • Until 30 August 2013, Melanie Simms is Associate Professor of Industrial Relations at the University of Warwick. Correspondence should be addressed to: Melanie Simms, Warwick Business School, University of Warwick, Coventry CV4 7AL; email:
    • From 1 September 2013, Melanie Simms is Professor of Work and Employment at the University of Leicester. Correspondence should be addressed to: Melanie Simms, School of Management, Ken Edwards Building, University of Leicester, University Road, Leicester LE1 7RH; email:


This article examines the roles of activists as they develop during campaigns to establish a workplace union presence. Evidence shows that there is surprising variation within and between campaigns, which is explained by (i) management decision making; (ii) union policies and structures; and (iii) the skills of the activists themselves. This suggests UK union organising places considerable emphasis on supporting workplace activists with the knowledge, skills, and expertise of organisers and officers in the wider union.