Trade Unions

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Trade Unions
What are trade unions?
A trade union is an organisation of workers that tries to protect and improve the working conditions of its
members. Trade unions also represent the views of workers to management and employers. It works like
this:
the union members in the workplace elect a representative (shop steward)
the shop steward negotiates with the management to try and solve any disputes between
management and workers
the shop steward passed on the views of his/her members to the people who run the unions
the shop steward explains union policies to his/her members.
Why do some workers join a union?
In a democracy people can choose whether to join a trade union. Unions represent workers to negotiate
for improved wages and conditions meaning that individual workers do not have to negotiate alone. Unions
can prevent individual members from being victimised by their employer. They can also make sure workers
get their entitlements, such as breaks, minimum pay, holiday leave and and that safety requirements are
met. In other words, they try to protect the interests of their members.
Why do some people choose not to join a union?
In the UK there are about 7.3 million union members out of a total workforce of nearly 26 million.
Workers may not feel they need to join a union if they already have good wages and working conditions.
Some workers do not believe in the idea of unions or may not wish to take part in industrial action (eg
strikes). Some workplaces may discourage union membership and not all trades/professions have a union.
What actions can trade unions take?
Most industrial disputes are settled before they get to the stage of industrial action. However, a union
can take industrial action on behalf of its members in a number of ways including:
strikes: workers stop working for a period of time
work to contract: workers carry out no duties other than those in their employment contracts
overtime ban: workers work only the agreed number of hours.
Members of unions have rights, including the right Trade unions (like pressure groups) also have the
to: right to:
elect people who run the union eg shop take part in industrial action if they ballot
steward or full-time union officials, such their members
as the union President or General peacefully picket outside their own place
Secretary. of work
Stand for election to the above posts operate in any workplace where the
attend union meetings and express their majority of the workforce want one.
opinions.
They also have the responsibility to: Trade unions have the responsibility to:
take part in ballots for electing officials hold elections for important posts in the
or deciding on industrial action union
act peacefully and within the law if taking obey the law when taking industrial action
industrial action allow people to refuse to join or to leave
accept the views of the majority in ballots. the union if they wish.

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