Ian Allinson and others have written a briefing document analysing the working class In Britain, the balance of class forces, the union bureaucracy and the rank and file. They write:
Union organisation is now concentrated in long-established industries – the public sector and some important pockets of the private sector. Union members are on average older, in larger workplaces, have longer service, are more likely to be in professional occupations than average workers…
The decline in workplace organisation is more than falling membership. Shop steward numbers have declined more. Their role has changed to have more emphasis on legalistic individual casework and less on collective action. Few stewards have experience of leading members in a serious fight.
The confidence of the rank and file in relation to the bureaucracy reflects their confidence in relation to the employer. Workers lacking confidence are more dependent on the union officials, hence the ease with which union leaders were able to betray the public sector pensions fight so soon after the magnificent action on N30.