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Confederation of British Surgery: a guaranteed future

Certification Office: on the 9th September 2021, the Certification Officer wrote to all trade unions and employers’ associations to inform them they would undertake a four-phase review of the official list and schedule of trade unions and employers’ associations.

We are delighted to inform you that on 3rd March CBS received confirmation from the Certification Office that we continue to meet the statutory definition of being a Trade Union and will remain on the official list of trade unions and employers’ associations.

In the first phase, the Certification Officer invited organisations, who believed they no longer met the statutory definition, to voluntarily withdraw from the list.  The second phase focused on the Certification Office reviewing information in their files and/or in the public domain to identify if the organisations met the statutory definition.  In the third phase, they engaged directly with organisations to assess whether they still met the statutory definition. In the fourth phase, they removed from the official list those organisations who do not fulfil the criteria. CBS passed all four phases.

This is great news for CBS. It assures our future!

Trade Unions - Reputation: Many will associate trade unions with industrial action and be reluctant to join, which is understandable. But times have changed. Today, 41% of trade union members are in professional occupations and a similar percentage have higher qualifications (Bulletin on Trade Union membership published by the Department for Business Innovation and Skills 2020).

(Please see below for additional, historical background)

Benefits of joining CBS

Despite being in our infancy, CBS has already achieved significant benefits for its members including:

  • Providing advice and support to surgeons in difficulty
  • Partnership with Indigo Indemnity to provide medical indemnity advice
  • Campaigning on issues of importance to surgeons and surgical teams (parental leave, professional fees, PPE)
  • Advisory helpline for contract / medicolegal enquiries
  • Provision of Wellbeing and Counselling support
  • CBS is partnered with a number of specialists, who can provide accountancy, tax, travel, transport, healthcare insurance and software benefits to CBS members
  • Establishing a Surgical Advisory Service

An important reason for joining is also to show solidarity of the surgical profession.

Benefits of joining a trade union:

  • Negotiating with employers on pay and conditions
  • Discussing major changes in the workplace such as redundancy and restructuring, changes to working practices and business transfers
  • Raising members’ concerns with employers
  • Representing workers in consultations with the employer and with Health and Safety Executive inspectors on health and safety issues
  • Investigating potential hazards and accidents at work
  • Accompanying members at disciplinary and grievance meetings
  • Providing members with legal advice and representation in employment and personal injury claims
  • Running and funding test cases benefiting large numbers of members and workers generally
  • Campaigning on issues of relevance to members and lobbying for workers’ rights on issues such as challenging low pay and zero hours contracts
  • Providing financial advice
  • Providing education and training facilities
  • Providing consumer benefits, often at discounted rates.

Historical Perspective

Since the publication of the History of Trade Unionism in 1894 by Sidney and Beatrice Webb, the predominant historical view is that a trade union "is a continuous association of wage earners for the purpose of maintaining or improving the conditions of their employment.” The origins of trade unions can be traced back to 18th century Britain, where the rapid expansion of industrial society then taking place, drew women, children, rural workers and immigrants into the work force in large numbers and in new roles.

Trade unionism in the United Kingdom was a major factor in some of the economic crises during the 1960's and the 1970'sm, culminating in the "Winter of Discontent" of late 1978 and early 1979, when a significant percentage of the nation's public sector workers went on strike. By this stage, some 12,000,000 workers in the United Kingdom were trade union members. However, the election of the Conservative Party led by Margaret Thatcher at the general election in May 1979 saw substantial trade union reform which saw the level of strikes fall. The level of trade union membership also fell sharply in the 1980's, and continued falling for most of the 1990's. The long decline of most of the industries in which manual trade unions were strong – e.g., steel, coal, printing, docks – was one of the causes of this loss of trade union members. Today there are approximately 6.5 million members in TUC-affiliated unions and numbers have been increasing in recent years. There are now more women members than ever before.

A common misconception is that trade unions were predominantly aimed at the “working classes”. This may have been true before the decline of steel, coal, and other heavy industries but is no longer the case. Today, 41% of trade union members are in professional occupations and a similar percentage have higher qualifications.

(Bulletin on Trade Union membership published by the Department for Business Innovation and Skills 2020)

For more information on CBS and how to join please visit

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