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Commercial unions play an important part in the business world and are present since the 18th century (Donado, 2012). Workers' unions are organizations that promote employment conditions in the workplace environment and ensure that workers have good working ties with their employers. The key goal of the workers' unions is to serve their members' vocation for reducing unequal working conditions and compensation for their jobs in good time (Donado, 2012). The unions also arranges for demonstration for the aggrieved workers to ensure that their desires are met. Through trade unions, workers can shelter themselves from breach of employment contracts through strikes and the solidarity among the union members ensures that no-one is victimised for their activities (Sherk, 2009). Due the dwindling economic climate, people are increasingly losing their jobs as more companies take on huge job cuts to save on costs. Companies have also highly automated their jobs thus requiring less people to work in the industries. There is therefore a need to evaluate ways in which the labour unions can survive.
Indeed even with the many job cuts, labour unions may still stand strong. The unions are not formed on the bases of mass but on the collective bargain and the agenda that each group holds. Labour unions would also come in handy in instances where workers have for instance being unfairly sacked from their job. The labour unions would hence ensure that the employee is paid his dues on time and that he has been dismissed professionally from his office (Sherk, 2009). In instances where the employee has been unfairly evicted from office, then the labour union can help fight for his right by representing the staff in a court of law (International Labour Office & International Labour Conference, 2009). While establishing the existence of labour unions when more workers are being laid out from their jobs, it is important to analyse if the remaining few workers have enough bargaining power. There is also a need to prove that even with automaton, human beings can equally deliver a better job and hence be retained in their current jobs.
Role of labour unions
Collective bargaining power
Soon after the global recession, companies have continuously found it difficult to not only pay their workers well but also give them better terms. It is hence not surprising to find that some companies are willing to only have short term contracts with their employees with the option of terminating them at any time. Usually, the short term contracts do not have added benefits to it like an insurance medical cover or pension schemes and workers are left to cater for that on their own. In this case, it becomes necessary for the labour unions to come in between the two parties and ensure that the terms laid out are favourable to each one of them (Sherk, 2009).
Although the company may have the right to only offer short term contracts to the employees, it ought to respect them and offer the necessary support to ensure that they live a relatively decent life. In this case, the labour unions also ensure that the members can voice out their opinions with the administration without being victimised. The workers in this case have the right to ask for higher salary or respect from their seniors without necessarily losing their jobs. The labour union also ensures that the workers under the short contract terms are paid their dues on time and that the employer does not make unnecessary deductions to suit themselves (Holcombe & Gwartney, 2010). The labour unions thus therefore give the member a collective bargaining power regardless of their employment terms.
Organize for demonstrations and strikes
The labour unions have been resourceful for the workers that would desire to organize demonstration protesting for their working conditions (Kayafas, 2008). The labour unions serve as the employee’s umbrella and they are hence assured that even if they demonstrated, they would not be victimised and they would hence retain their jobs. There have been instances where the unions organized for go slows, strikes and even public demonstrations. The labour unions however ensure that the activities are peaceful with the aim of meeting their agenda’s in a civilised manner. Unlike the labour union members, other employees have had a difficult time with others losing their jobs after engaging in the demonstration since they lack a protecting umbrella to campaign for their rights.
Most of the union leaders are professionals who are quite knowledgeable about the specific profession which also gives them an upper hand when negotiating the terms (Kayafas, 2008). For instance, a doctor’s labour union would be led by a qualified doctor who has worked within the health sector and hence have witnessed the same challenges that the other medics are complaining about. The doctor could be striking for low wages within the national government based hospitals, lack of modern and adequate facilities or even the harassment of the medics by the government officials. By having a representative who is one of them, the union members are assured that their issues would be articulated well and dealt with in a timely manner.
Challenges that the unions are facing today
Lack of solidarity
Due to the fear of often losing their jobs, more workers have decided to fight on their own and accept the terms that their present employer hands over to them. It is hence not surprising that the workers are willing to tolerate the poor treatment and low wages so that they can retain their jobs. Moreover, fewer workers are willing to join the labour unions with the fear of being victimized by their prospective employers. Although belonging to a labour union is advantageous to an employee, they are still subject to terms spelt out by their employers and they have the option of quitting their jobs. Some of the private companies prefer to deal with employees who are free from any formal association because that threatens their bargaining power. The labour unions can however counter this defect by educating the mass on the importance of joining a labour union. Although having a high number of employees in an organization may be useful, it may be worth considering other factors such as the collective bargaining powers of the few members within the organization (Holcombe & Gwartney, 2010). The unions should also educate the members on their rights and the expectations that they ought to have on their employers.
In the face of globalization, more workers are seemingly going to work in other meaning that there are less people in the various countries. It therefore becomes difficult for the labour unions to organize the remaining workers with the view of having one voice. The labour unions can in this case, have an international presence to ensure that their members are protected from whatever facets of their lives they represent (Sharma, 2016). It is also worth noting that the labour unions can form close alliances with international organizations to form one virtual union that would still continue to protect the rights of the workers.
In the face of rapid job cuts especially following the financial recession that occurred in 2008, it is worth noting that some of the professionals have gone freelance. More people hence opt to be on their own instead of under the umbrella of various companies. The freelancers are likely to form job contracts with various people which means that everyone has a different prepositions and terms. Although the freelancer may still be a member of a trade union, it becomes increasingly difficult to track their various contracts and this means that the unions have less control on the agreements. Most of the freelance contracts are not secured and the absence of a clear stipulated working time makes it hard for the workers to be willing to join the labour unions. Some of the workers also enter into the freelance agreements on their own terms meaning that they may not in the end need the labour unions to fight for their rights
Other employees have seemingly left the corporate world and they are sully established their business thus being self-employed. The self-employed workers do not need a labour union representation and this leaves out the organizations with less members. The trade unions may in this case need to adjust and include policies that would protect the rights of the employees (Sharma, 2016). Labour unions may actively get involved in politics by helping to set legislatures that would represent employees in various states. Although the employees are not certain about their present jobs, it is worth informing them on the alternative measures that they can take when faced with circumstances where the organizational practice do not align with those of the law. In this case, the labour unions would still attract more employees because they are assured that their rights would be protected regardless and that they would have justifiable laws to fight for them.
Although unions sad for the worker rights, some of them represent the common goals and objectives of the people they are representing (Heins, Knigge, Kranz & von Bieberstein, 2004). For example, a union for the teachers would stand for the various professionalism within the teaching career and the values that represents them even when a teacher forms a private school for instance after losing their employment, they may still need to refer back to their code of conduct to ensure that they treat their juniors with the respect they deserve and they hence do not violate any laws.it may also be worthy making it compulsory for the professionals to join a labour union to ensure that the organization still have a strong membership despite the economic environment.
As more people begin to experience in job cuts within their companies, it is becoming increasingly difficult to retain jobs (Sharma, 2016). More companies in this case, choose to have fewer workers at the same or lesser salary than many employees thus incurring more costs. The labour unions hence lack sufficient membership and this means that they may lack the authoritative power to campaign for the worker’s rights (Kayafas, 2008). Employees who have been sacked from their jobs also be experience some depression and they may also be ignorant about the existence and the importance of trade unions thus undermining their existence. Some employees may also choose to fight less and curve their own journey for their destiny which also tends to give the labour unions less voice (Kayafas, 2008). It is important for the worker’s right activists to stress on the importance of belonging to a trade union even after losing one’s job because that would assist the aggrieved party weight his circumstances and evaluate if he lost their contract in the right way.
Although the labour unions are highly under threat, they can still stand the test of time and perform their role well. There is a need for the federal government to get actively involved in the affairs of the workers (Hogler, 2015). It is thus better preventing instances where the employees would be crying foul over the way they are being treated at work instead of taking a remedy early on. In this case, the government ought to make it compulsory for every employee to join a labour union once they are employed. It is necessary for the employees to belong to a place where they would be assured that their rights are protected hence would not receive any injustice from their employers (Hogler, 2015). The labour unions would also be made compulsory in every company. It should be recommended that every company ensures that their staff members have joined a labour union and they are actively involved in it (Donado, 2012). Having employees who are abreast about their rights would not only improve their performance but also work contentment since they understand that they have a protected umbrella that would take charge of all their needs. The government thus ought to fine employees and the management that have not joined a formal labour union. The labour union would also serve to protect the employers from rough employees who would chose to use the unions to their selfish advantage (Hogler, 2015). Although the labour organizations protect the rights of the employee, it is important that they also respect the terms stipulated in the contact and thus not engaged in activities that are likely to cost the company. The government can also offer to fund the civil union and this could ensure that they have enough resources to take charge of all the activities that take place throughout the year.
Although the global economic climate has been deteriorating, there is still hope of the various economies recovering and absorbing more workers. Labour unions therefore still have a place and they may remain in existence for the long haul. It is however important to have a plan of dealing with the challenges that the labour unions are facing such as huge job cuts, automation, ignorance and lack of enough membership. The labour unions can also partner with international companies to ensure that the worker’s rights are resected in all countries and that both parties follow the terms of the contract. The labour unions may hence not co to an end because even in the freelancing world, people need a voice that can represent them in taxation matters and discriminative behaviours.
Donado, A. (2012). How trade unions increase welfare. The Economic Journal, 122(563), 990-1009.
Heins, B., Knigge, M., Kranz, N., & von Bieberstein, A. (2004). The role of labour unions in the process towards sustainable consumption and production. Final report to the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), Division of Technology, Industry and Economics (DTIE), Paris, France.
Hogler, R. L. (2015). The end of American labor unions: The right-to-work movement and the erosion of collective bargaining. Santa Barbara, California : Praeger
Holcombe, R. G., & Gwartney, J. D. (2010). Unions, economic freedom, and growth. Cato J., 30, 1.
International Labour Office., & International Labour Conference. (2009). Tackling the global jobs crisis: Recovery through decent work policies : report of the Director-General. Geneva: ILO.
Kayafas, N. (2008). Welcome to the poverty class: The growing unemployment and underemployment problem. Pittsburgh, Pa: RoseDog Books.
Sharma, R. C. (2016). Industrial relations and labour legislation. Place of publication not identified: Prentice-hall of India.
Sherk, J. (2009). What unions do: How labor unions affect jobs and the economy. The Heritage Foundation.
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