The long period of Trade Union decline is over

Published: 26th February 2010
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Trade unions are an important aspect in championing for the workers rights and improvement of working conditions of the worker. For the worker to be well represented the unions must have the interest of the workers at heart. For many years trade unions have been on the decline because of the various issues including discouraging legislations formulated by different governments, uncaring employers were are more concerned about making profits and more so bad management policies of the trade unions which was managed by un-responsive managerial policies. However, today trade unions are more organized than before, and they have higher bargaining power compared to previous days. This is probably because the unions have developed better structures and policies. Today, the challenges the trade unions have, is how to gain better bargaining power at the same time balance the political powers and influences that the trade unions have.

To address this subject: the long period of union decline is over, the study paper will carry on, along the following field: trade union will have to be defined for reasons of theoretical clarity; trade union functions will be underscored; challenges of the trade unions will mentioned and the various factors which have made the trade unions become successful in the recent past, the centre of the paper, will be discussed at length; and lastly "the way forward" in terms of a conclusion will be provided.

What is trade union?
Trade union is a union formed when individuals related through employment organize themselves together to form a group that will safeguard their interests as workers. The individuals may be unskilled workers, skilled, professional or even unemployed. The major purpose of a union is to maintain and or improve the prevailing conditions of employment. The unions are used as a tool by which employees and their companies relate in the working place to create rules and regulations of employment. Good working relationships are required from both parties to maintain high production in the working place. (Arkers and Payne 1998)

Main objectives of trade union
There are several objectives of trade union; we shall examine only the first four. The main objective of trade union is:

1. To protect the interest of workers and the management by providing common understanding between the workers and the industry management

2. Is to evade industrial disagreements or conflicts and enhance good relations which are an important factor in workers' productivity and progression of the industries.

3. to create and develop the growth of democracy in the industries that is founded on labour partnership that promotes sharing of profits and also management decisions to foster individual growth of workers and at the same time benefit the industry and the country as a whole

4. Provide collective bargaining for employees in terms of better wages and improved working conditions

5. Take industrial actions by organizing strikes and lockouts to further their objectives.

Those are the main objectives although trade unions are also have more duties which they perform.

Changing fortunes
Studies on the subject of increased fortunes of the trade unions indicates that from 1980s to the 1990s transformations in the domestic industry, increase of globalization, high competition in market and international companies force for incessant innovative employment practice has improved the capability for trade unions to raise pay and also champion for better working conditions through the use of collective bargaining (Kochan and Lansbury 1997).This model of collective has become more important to counter the competitive labour market and the uncompromising companies which are ever seeking to reduce costs and increase profits. As a consequence, trade union has become more successful amongst employees (Heery 2002).

Likewise, another issue which has contributed to the increase in trade unions is the degree and range of the legal support which is needed for the workplace union membership. The case at this point is that, the scope statutory stipulations complemented by legislation, supports unionization activities of employees in a place of work. For instance in the England the modern policies put in place by the conservative administration was meant on strengthening trade union power in the place of work and in creating situations where by the employees may get a great say within an organization (Waddington 2003). In the same why the trade unions have been able to increase their political powers and thus be able to influence political decisions and policy formulation in their favour. Bach (2002) clearly observes that the current fortune of trade unions has a bearing in the influence on the political arena which has continued to increase, since more workers are increasingly becoming aware of their net worth.

In addition Hoffman (1993) makes a suggestion that, the variation in the level of unionisation amongst men and women that arise from segregation or discrimination at the work place can account for the recent past shift to better fortunes for the trade unions. In the earlier times women were greatly segregated by both the employers and the trade unions themselves. Women were not given equally opportunities as men, while at the same time those few who were in formal employment were denied chances to join in the trade unions as members. However, with a change in the employment practices through many companies offering equally opportunities more women have been able to get into formal employment. Similarly, trade unions have also embraced a principle of open membership allowing women to join these trade unions. The result has been increased membership which has translated to strong trade unions.

More so Hoffman (1997) also adds that younger workers have also increased their membership in the unions in the recent past. With the outcomes that younger people are being more and more employed in the workplace. They seem to be more susceptible of being unfairly treated in the workplace if they do not get into collectivism. This in itself has strengthened the trade unions. In addition to add to his argument, Hoffman (1997) stresses that the reduction of trade union formalities practices which to some extent hindering younger people in joining the trade unions has reduced, which has seen more younger people getting into the trade unions. These younger people tend to inject new blood in the trade unions and make them more effective and much more aggressive in their duties.

There has been improved relationship between many organizations and the trade unions which has also enhanced the fortunes of the trade unions. In improving the trade union relations, the management of organizations has undertaken several measures which includes among others the following. The management together with the union has developed constructive feelings towards each other. Managements have tried to formulate clear industrial relations policies and procedures that everybody in the union understands and agrees with. In addition in the recent past the many organizations have tried to enhance the trade unions in the ways of improving their leadership structures through not interfering with trade unions elections, this aspect has build stronger unions which can effectively articulate the needs and requirements of workers.

Looking at the most of these examined underlying issues has led in trade unions becoming more effectual in the place of work and in the wider society as a whole. The main consequence of this new drift is that trade unions membership in the recent past has become more attractive to prospective members who have increased in their numbers. As such the degree of the increase in the trade unions membership, besides the comparative increase of trade union representatives in the place of work has increased the level of the trade unions. More so in the recent past the unions have been joining together in order to improve their structures and improve their status and also their bargaining power. According to Kelly and Heery (1994), the trade unions have been undergoing transformations in revitalizing the way they work, and their structure which has resulted in the trade unions being more accountable and thus more sufficient.

Better organisational and partnership concepts undertaken by the trade unions
To further examine why the trade unions have increased in fortunes we shall examine two aspects which are better organising and also partnership which is the present argument as to why the unions have become successful. (Heery, 2002)

The standards of organising concept involves adjustment in trade union concerns, in that at present the trade unions have committed more resources in recruiting more members which have become the main objective or purpose of the trade unions against offering service to already registered union members (Heery 2002).This expansion of unionism membership to non conventional employed groups has involved inspiring activism amongst the union workforce which has allowed for liberty to determine different trade unions issues through the use of external union representation or without using the external representation (Heery 2002). This new way to unionism indicates new organising techniques which have been installed by trained trade union organisers in devoted structured promotions. Heery (2002) conjecture that this organising techniques comprises

(i) Formulating of targeted workers to spot prospective members and campaigners

(ii) using representative trade union's organising working group to persuade workers to get into the crusade of trade union

(iii) dependence on actions to make the trade union an evident basis for work recognition

(iv) individual to individual enrolment

(v) The using of adverts and the media to put pressure on resistant workers who were not willing to join the union.

In general the model behind this concept strategy is founded on the motivation that; the power of trade union is well sustained through successful place of work organisation.

On the contra the Partnership concept is connected to the approach that employment relationship that entails mutual benefit relation among the trade union and the management. The concept stresses that there are organisations which finds it equally morally responsible and also economically efficient in sharing with the trade unions matters on strategic issues of the organisational transformation (Martinez, Lucio and Stuart, 2002). In the perspective of trade union concern, partnership idea is seen to offer a chance for the trade union to press on their traditional concerns in ensuring that the rights of the workers in relation to the working conditions, for example, training, safety at the work place and other non-work associated issues are improved by employers. This has emerged from a broad wish to widen political and also social situation of the workers at their work place through having the workers get into a new relationship with their organisation's management, a relationship founded on a rightful and autonomous voice (which is not managerial directed) which permits risks at the workplace to be shared between the management and the workers, and mutual approaches taken against the challenges affecting the organisations (Martinez, Lucio and Stuart, 2002).

The partnership created then has resulted in the trade unions being more successful in their operations and more so increasing their importance in management. because of the management incorporating the trade union's contributions in their management strategies, the trade unions influence and relevance in the organisations have increased and trade unions have been seen as partners who ca assist the organisations in achieving their goals and objectives instead of the previous perceptions that trade unions are antagonists of organisations. As such the trade unions have increasingly enhanced their status and significance in the organisation, ultimately improving their fortunes and workers fortunes too.

From the above stated observations, the political opening position for both concepts of organisational and partnership undertaken by the trade unions was to seek feasible answers on the manner the trade union were to redefine themselves in changing the previous approaches where the trade unions were not successful. The trade unions have of now changed and as discussed earlier incorporated better organisation structures and enhanced partnership with employers. The organisation concepts involved redefining the trade union managerial structures and putting an emphasises on

Workers' self organisation as opposite to the organisation management being the primary organising body (Kelly1996; Heery 2002).This involved efforts in organising workers by a bottom up system of organising, and also depending on a collective strength in securing workers' recognition (Herery, 2002).This effort undertaken by the employers has entailed the organisations offering training to employees and giving them some other supportive services in making them more effective in management. Managing workers in the organisation usually extends to providing precious service to employees such as supporting training activities in their specific fields, career advancement. This is undertaken by methodical planning through the use of specialist methods. Through such trainings and support the trade unions have been able to improve their organising structure and the leadership abilities to create effective trade unions. When you look at the aforementioned measures critically, one may argue that the trade unions officers may fell threatened if the organisations start training their members, however, the issue is on improving organisation in the trade unions. Though to an extent this concept has of course created some discomfort to some union leaders, Kelly (2003) notes that the internal structure of trade unions have been able to be improved which has contributed to the trade unions being able to represent the workers in a more professional manner.

In this same regard, Carter (2000) observes that restructuring the past practice of trade unions have been the key in comprehending the importance of their members who are workers being trained. In addition Carter (2000) makes an argument following his observation that, a deliberately determined change in an organisation and the trade unions have been able to achieved through the trade unions becoming more flexible and also the organisations becoming more willing to offer better training to its employees. The change in management policies and largely played a big role in changing the fortunes of the trade unions and making them be more effective. In the complex modern world trade unions restructuring and repositioned have really helped the unions in improving their fortunes (Stirling, 2005).

Several scholars have pointed out that the continued importance of collective bargaining has been a reason for members joining trade unions especially in this competitive labour market. Stirling (2005) provides strong confirmation that new trade union members join the unions for collective grounds connected to being supported when faced with problems at their work place, whereas Waddington and Whitson (1997) made a conclusion that, individualisation features of the employment relations (for example service for employment) do not essentially imply the desertion of supporting the collective agenda of trade unions. More so in a more critical point William (1997) throw doubt in the issue of validity of the idea of individualisation among modern workers generally, he has argued that the perception of employees becoming less collective and solidarity do not discourage the trade unions in pursing their historical objectives of fighting for better working conditions of the employees. As such Stirling (2005) points out that the trade unions importance in the modern world have increase as more workers wants to be represented in the trade union to get better employment terms.

Another issue that has made the trade unions to improve their growth and power is the willingness of members to contribute to the trade unions generously and continuously. This has ensured that the trade unions have economic power required to successful represent the workers in pursing their goals.

Going back to the expression of the trade unions management partnership or collaboration concept as a strategic reason to improved trade unions, a great deal of the discussion is based on the fundamental observations which have been going on in the recent past in some sectors. For example in the UK national organisations such as "Department of Trade and Industries- Partnership Fund", has offered fine support and also technical resources to position fresh management-trade union relationships within a paradigm of a wider range of interests. Through using this system of partnership the UK is able to play as a third party and also as a major sponsor of partnership and more so, as a catalyst of the system and learning procedure applicable to the partnership (Rainbird, 2004).

In the industrial relationships, policies and the continuous difficulties management of organisations come across in responding to ever changing external environmental alterations, beside the probable effect of a possibly more trade union responsive political atmosphere. Authors such as Arkers and Payne (1998), argues that the management can not carry on advancement change without involving trade unions in regards to decision making in the organisation. Thus, Partnership has afforded the trade unions an apparent chance for increasing trade union's economic and social influence.

In the general Trade unions are unions formed when individuals related through employment organize themselves together to form a group that will safeguard their interests as workers. The trade unions have several objectives which they purse, but all these objectives are aimed at ensuring that the workers rights are addressed and that the working conditions of the employees are improved. In the recent past the fortunes of the trade unions have become better because of several factors which include increased need of collectivism by the employees, improved and better laws to government and protect workers, improved trade unions structures, improved working relationship between the trade unions and management leading to partnerships among other factors. As noted by Stirling (2005) trade unions will continue being vital in the workplace and their importance and influence is bound to increase.

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