Collective bargaining between employers and employees

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In order to establish an agreement to control or improve benefits, working conditions, pay, and many aspects of employees' rights and compensations, employers and a group of professionals (employees) engage in collective bargaining (Fick, 2009). The interests of the workers are typically represented by their trade union representatives, and the wage scale, training, and working conditions of the employees are frequently established by the collective agreements signed during such discussions. The agreements also specify how grievances will be handled, overtime rules, health and safety requirements, and participation rights in organizational and workplace matters (Stanger, 2016). The bargaining union may negotiate either with a single employer or with a group of organizations, depending on the country, to meet an acceptable, industry-wide agreement (Stanger, 2016). This paper presents various legal aspects and benefits of collective bargaining unions.

Legal Aspects of Collective Bargaining Unions

The employees’ right to collectively negotiate or bargain is provided for in the international human rights conventions. According to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Article 23, employees have the right to organize themselves into trade unions (Pekarek & Gahan, 2016). Besides, the Declaration on Fundamental Workplace Rights and Principles of International Labor Organization recognize the right of workers to collective bargaining and freedom of association as essential workers' rights (Gaston, 2002). The Protection of the Right to Organize Convention and the Freedom of Association among other conventions provide protection for collective bargaining through the formation of international labor standards, which prevent individual countries from violating the rights of employees to freely associate and bargain collectively (Sundjoto, 2017).

According to a ruling made by the Supreme Court of Canada in 2007, for example, the right to collectively bargain with an employer improves the workers' liberty, dignity. It also promotes their autonomy through providing them with the opportunity to contribute to the establishment of various workplace rules, thereby gaining a level of control over a primary aspect of their lives, which is work (Katchanovski, Rothman, & Nevitte, 2011). Additionally, according to the ruling, collective bargaining allows workers to attain a form of workplace democracy, as well as ensures that the rule of law applies to the workplace.

In the United States, most collective agreements within the private sector are covered in the 1935's National Labor Relations Act. The Act considers it offensive for any employer to discriminate, harass, spy on, or ends the employee's contract because of belonging to unions or retaliating against them for participating in union campaigns (Traxler & Frandl, 2010). According to the Act, it is also illegal for any employer to force any worker to become a member of a union as an employment condition. After a majority of employees vote for their union representatives, the Act provides for the negotiation of a contract between the employees' committee and the union representatives. The negotiations aim at setting benefits, wages, working hours, as well as other employment terms and conditions such as the protection from contract termination without justification (Traxler & Frandl, 2010).

The United States' National Labor Relations Act prohibits private negotiations, and after the contract agreement, all the employees are allowed to vote so as to approve the contract (Block, 2014). The employees’ contract usually stays in force for a given term of years, after which it gets subjected to renegotiation between the management and the employees (Brown, 2015). Dispute sometimes occur over the union contract, especially in situations when an employee gets terminated in the union workplace without just cause. When that happens, the disputes go through an arbitration process, a form of an informal court hearing, where a neutral arbitrator gives a ruling regarding the dispute (Brigden, 2012).

Twenty-four states in the United States require unionized employees to make contributions towards the representation costs relating to disciplinary hearings (Troy, 2000). However, some states in the U.S, especially in the south-eastern and south-central regions, have outlawed clauses relating to union security, a situation which can lead to great controversies since it makes it possible for some beneficiaries of the union contract not to pay for the contract negotiation costs (Shi, 2014). Despite such differences, the U.S Supreme Court holds that the National Labor Relations Act prevents the union dues of any employee from being utilized in any activity outside the union without the employee’s consent (Shi, 2014).

Benefits of Collective Bargaining Unions

One of the advantages of collective bargaining unions is that they act as ways of compensation for the union members (O’Connell, 2003). Union members often prefer traditionally structured monthly or hourly salaries and wages as opposed to payments that are productivity dependent. Besides, most members of a union prefer fixed wages due to job security (O’Connell, 2003). However, union members that belong to various technical and professional fields have a high likelihood of having part of their payment based on productivity. Some of the compensations based on productivity include incentive pay, bonuses, stock options, and profit-sharing (Sundjoto, 2017). In overall, union members in technical and professional fields often accept slightly lower payments in exchange for benefits, which include pension, health insurance, disability and life insurance, and paid holidays. However, the method of employee compensation reflects employee preference, and it is usually considered first by the bargaining team (Sundjoto, 2017).

Collective bargaining unions also help in addressing various workplace concerns raised by the employees (Fick, 2009). Collective bargaining unions play important roles in bringing workers together and giving them an opportunity to raise their concerns in the workplace. Additionally, through collective bargaining unions, employees can earn and maintain good wages; bargain on issues aimed at improving workplace conditions; and have access to various benefits such as pension and health insurance (Brown, 2015). Besides, one of the primary goals of collective bargaining unions is to make employees be heard on issues of non-compensation. Since most agreements that address issues relating to non-compensation do not consider all the employees’ concerns, the formation of collective bargaining unions helps in initiating agreements that only reflect specific issues of concern to the member of the unions (O’Connell, 2003).

Collective bargaining unions also address workplace concerns through the formation of Labor-Management Committees, which consist of an equal number of management and union appointees (Addison, Portugal, & Vilares, 2016). The aim of creating Labor Management Committees is to allow both the employer and the union to raise various workplace concerns. The Labor Management Committees are usually protected and informal settings where the concerns of both the employer and the employee can be resolved amicably. Besides, workers can always raise their concerns anonymously through the union representatives (Addison, Portugal, & Vilares, 2016).

Another benefit of collective bargaining unions is addressing employees’ issues relating to discipline and grievances (D’Art & Turner, 2011). The fundamental principle of all collective bargaining unions is due process, which requires workers to have an opportunity to respond to various allegations made against them by the employers (D’Art & Turner, 2011). Both the employer and union have the responsibility of establishing and agreeing to discipline and grievance procedures (Block, 2014). Additionally, almost all collective bargaining agreements signed by the unions have clear provisions for disciplining employees and solving various grievances. The provisions are usually set forth clearly in the collective bargaining agreement, in writing, and all the union members usually get copies of the agreement arrived at by the union (Block, 2014).


Every agreement agreed upon by the union on behalf of the union members has its unique terms since the affected employees have specific concerns. Collective bargaining unions provide workers with an opportunity to make use of their combined professionalism to address various workplace issues which affect them directly. The unions would not be in a position to look out for the best employees’ interests without the collective bargaining process. Collective bargaining unions, therefore, provide the union members with a voice to bargain or negotiate better working conditions, benefits, and wages. Through the process of give-and-take, collective bargaining unions can negotiate proper agreements with the employers that benefit the future of both the employee and the entire society. Additionally, collective bargaining unions also give workers the opportunity to negotiate on a broad range of concerns including those relating to their ability to perform their job, health, fairness, and safety.


Addison, J., Portugal, P., & Vilares, H. (2016). Unions and Collective Bargaining in the Wake of the Great Recession: Evidence from Portugal. British Journal Of Industrial Relations.

Block, W. (2014). Labor Relations, Unions, and Collective Bargaining: A Political-Economic Analysis. SSRN Electronic Journal.

Brigden, C. (2012). Unions and Collective Bargaining in 2011. Journal Of Industrial Relations, 54(3), 361-376.

Brown, W. (2015). Trade unions at the workplace. Industrial Relations Journal, 46(1), 7-11.

D'Art, D., & Turner, T. (2011). Irish trade unions under social partnership: a Faustian bargain?. Industrial Relations Journal, 42(2), 157-173.


Gaston, N. (2002). The Effects of Globalisation on Unions and the Nature of Collective Bargaining. Journal Of Economic Integration, 17(2), 377-396.

Katchanovski, I., Rothman, S., & Nevitte, N. (2011). Attitudes towards Faculty Unions and Collective Bargaining in American and Canadian Universities. Relations Industrielles, 66(3), 349.

O'Connell, J. (2003). Beyond unions and collective bargaining. Journal Of Labor Research, 24(4), 731-732.

Pekarek, A., & Gahan, P. (2016). Unions and collective bargaining in Australia in 2015. Journal Of Industrial Relations, 58(3), 356-371.

Shi, E. (2014). Ambiguous Law: The Right to Bargain for Job Security in Collective Agreements. Victoria University Law And Justice Journal, 4(1).

Stanger, H. (2016). Book Review: The End of American Labor Unions: The Right-to-Work Movement and the Erosion of Collective Bargaining, by Raymond H. Hogler. Labor Studies Journal, 41(1), 143-145.

Sundjoto, S. (2017). The role of Trade Unions and Competitors on the Performance of Employees on Compensation Indirect (Case Study on Textile Company in East Java). IOSR Journal Of Economics And Finance, 8(01), 58-64.

TRAXLER, F., & BRANDL, B. (2010). Collective Bargaining, Macroeconomic Performance, and the Sectoral Composition of Trade Unions. Industrial Relations: A Journal Of Economy And Society, 49(1), 91-115.

Troy, L. (2000). Beyond Unions and Collective Bargaining. Working USA, 3(5), 102-134.

February 01, 2023

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