A trade union is an organisation of workers who have banded together to work towards and achieve common goals such as better working conditions, pay, employment benefits and insurance. A trade union will provide help and support to employees in times of need such as disciplinary hearings, strikes, appraisals, complaints and negotiations.
The trade union has leaders, or union representatives, who bargain with and negotiate with the employer on behalf of union members for labour contracts. This may include the negotiation of wages, working rules, policies concerning hiring, firing and promotion, workplace safety, as well as the other elements mentioned above. The most common function of a trade union is committed to maintaining or improving the conditions of employment.
Benefits of Being a Member of a Trade Union
Early trade unions offered a range of benefits to insure employees against unemployment, ill health, old age and funeral expenses. Another function of a trade union is to take collective action against an employer to enforce the terms of collective bargaining and help settle grievances. Trade unions may also undertake political lobbying, organise protests and strikes, pursue campaigns and financially support individual candidates or parties for public office if it is in the interests of the union members or workforce as a whole.
The History Of Trade Unions
Originating in the UK and Europe during the industrial revolution of the 18th and 19th centuries, trade unions bridged the gap between the unskilled, mistreated and underpaid workforces and shifted the bargaining power back to the employees from the employers. Over the last 300 years trade unions have continued to operate and hold power in the workplace, protecting workers’ rights and helping to create and maintain better working conditions for all sorts of industries.
A List of Trade Union Functions
- Defending their employee rights and jobs
- Securing improvements in their working conditions, including hours of work and health safety at work
- Improving their pay and other benefits, including holiday entitlements
- Encouraging firms to increase worker participation in business decision making
- Improving sick pay, pensions and industrial injury benefits
- Developing and protecting the skills of union members