Trade Unions Essay Research Paper WHAT DO

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Trade Unions Essay, Research Paper WHAT DO UNIONS DO? WHY DO EMPLOYEES JOIN UNIONS? Union n.1. The condition of being united, the act of uniting, or a conjunction formed by such an act. 2. An association, alliance, or confederation of individuals or groups for a common purpose, esp. political. Wilkes 1998: pg. 1677 When talking of the subject of Industrial Relations, the type of union that is most prevalent is that of a trade union. This main focus of this essay will be to define what a trade union is, outline its main functions and define why employees join trade unions. Conflict is an important word when one thinks of Industrial Relations. It can be argued that conflict is everywhere and inevitable in today’s society. When one looks at workplace conflict, it can be broken

down. On one side there is the employers, and on the other side, the employees. But taking a closer look reveals that there is more than meets the eyes. In today’s workplace, conflict consists of employer s associations, employers, government, employees and unions. This essay will focus on the employees side of conflict and more notably, the trade unions that the employees join. The essay will explain what the trade unions do, the benefits the employees get out of trade unions and what the future will hold for unions. Trade unions are associations of workers established to improve their economic and social conditions. (Funk and Wagnall s 1998: vol. 25 pg.429). This definition, while very basic, is in essence the main function of a trade union. When looking at the history of

trade unions, it can be seen to have originated from the economic struggles between workers and employers in the nineteenth century. (Keeney & Kelley 1995: pg. 220). This means that employees for quite along time have used the many functions that the unions provide. The first section of this essay will be to provide the basic functions of trade unions. Traditionally, trade unions have used a variety of means to pursue the interests of their members direct negotiations with employers, system of conciliation and arbitration and various kinds of direct industrial action (Mitchell & Rosewarne 1982: pg.188) This essay will explain the following functions; selective benefits, collective bargaining, arbitration, legal or political actions. Unions, in some industries, have been

able to take advantage of compulsory enrolment, but in many workforces today, enrolment in unions is optional. Therefore, in one workforce, a union may speak on behalf of all employees, while in other workforce it may speak on behalf of a limited number of employees. (Mitchell & Rosewarne 1982: pg.188) When considering a workforce with optional enrolment, it can be seen that there will be workers who are not part of the workplace union. In this situation, the union can take the opportunity to give selective benefits to those workers that are in the union. These benefits can be monetary. For example, a student union may offer discounts to those enrolled. They also provide services such as legal aid, taxation advice, mortuary benefits, dental care, educational programmes etc.

These benefits are usually financed directly from union revenue. The benefits may also be psychological. For example, a union member may feel more secure of his job because he is part of a union. Another function that a union provides is that of collective bargaining. Collective bargaining is negotiations between employers and employees (who are usually represented by a labor union) about terms and conditions of employment. The bargaining process is concerned with wages, working hours, fringe benefits, job security, safety, and other matters relating to working conditions. (Funk and Wagnall s 1998: vol. 6 pg.420). When looking at the history of collective bargaining in the Australian trade unions, it can be traced back to the 1890 s. The collective bargaining in the form of