What Are Trade Unions Commerce Essay

Published: 2021-06-24 17:30:03
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The academic debate on ‘partnership’ versus ‘organizing’ strategies in Employee Relations is, at root, an argument about what and whom unions are for. To explain this argument, I shall need to develop a strong idea of trade unions. To do this, I shall need to assess what unions what are and whom unions are for. The history of trade unions and what they are shall be included to further the understanding. To have inputs in this argument, the two different strategies of ‘partnership' and ‘organising' shall be defined in order to create an understanding about the way that they work. A portion of the essay shall evaluate both types of union activity and outline the advantages and disadvantages of each approach, allowing an easy comparison of both the strategies. Then the effect of both the strategies shall be observed.
I shall conclude the essay by stating my view on this argument along with an evaluation.
What are Trade Unions?
Trade Unions have become an integral factor in the Modern Organisational world. They exercise their powerful influences in production of goods & services, policies of governments, and even the way the economy works. But yet there are no formal definitions of trade unions.
B. Webbs says "A Trade Union, as we understand the term is a continuous association of wage earners for the purpose of maintaining or improving the conditions of their working lives" [1] while Clyde says "A Trade union is a continuing organization of employees established for the purpose of protecting or improving through collective action, the economic and social status of its members" [2] . If we look at the two definitions, we see that there is no material difference between the two. But upon a closer look we can see that Clyde stresses on the "collective action" while it is completely neglected in the Webb definition. In the end though, trade unions have become well-established enough to define themselves.
Trade Unions have had a prolonged involvement in United Kingdom. Dating back from as early as 1800’s, we see signs of trade union leaders. But it was not until the development of modern capitalism that Trade Unions started to grow in number. In 1871, the Trade Union Act 1871 was established, legalizing the formation of trade unions in UK.
As it can be seen in the definitions, trade unions aim to further its members' interests, demand higher wages, increasing job security, ensuring satisfactory working conditions, etc. Unions are able to achieve all this through the basic concept that lies behind them, which is increased bargaining and negotiation power as a result of acting together. Unions often refer to this traditional rally call as "unity is strength".
Waddinton and Whinstion’s research proved the main reason for joining unions were either to gain the benefits of collectivism or for individual benefit. The Collective power of unions allowed mutual support, improved working and pay conditions and a belief in the principle of union organisation. While individual benefits like improved training, improved levels of education, they also gained industrial benefits like free financial and legal services.
"Partnership" in its general sense means having a share in an enterprise or relationship of some sort, whether social or economic. Partnership at work refers to the relationship of the workers in the workplace and their representatives. Partnership is about development of improved employment relationship at all levels, helping building trust in workplace and working together to solve workplace problems [3] . The Chartered Institute of Personnel & Development takes partnership to be an approach to the relationship between employees and their employers individually, than to do with trade unions. From these varying definitions, we can see that partnerships vary and so does the type of agreement. So this leads to ambiguity about how parties interpret them.
Partnership working is neither a new nor recent concept but it has become more recognised in recent years in UK. Institutes like the Trades Union Congress, have promote partnership as successful strategic choice for unions who face an hostile economic environment. The model of "partnership" in trade unions emerged in U.K in mid-1990. IPA have preset benchmarks for partnerships where there is a need for commitment to various criteria’s, such as the success of the business, provision employment security, recognise the employees voice, sharing corporate success with the employees, training and developing staff as well as provision of flexible job design and direct participation. The TUC also has similar prerequisites.
There are various factors which promoted partnering to employers as well as unions. One factor was the statutory changes required the employees to consult the employers on a wide array of employee issues. Another factor was the management practices focused upon cultural change and renewal. Unions hope that the partnership approach would help to strengthen their institutional role and strengthen their say.
The term ‘organising’ is used to describe a model of trade unionism that emphasises membership activism around relevant workplace issues. The term originates from USA [4] .It was eestablished in 1998, by the TUC to promote trade union membership among young workers, women and those on ‘non-standard’ contracts. It’s an approach that emphasised on collectivism and membership activism as being the a major aspect of addressing workplace issues. The Organising approach complements the servicing approach; which was concerned with providing support and services to union members. A major element of this approach is it aims to build a proactive organisation culture based on the union members activities. Even though the idea of organising came to the UK, the political ideas present within US models of organising were different.
Heery (2002) suggests that organizing model consisted of mapping of targeted workforce to identify potential members and activist, the use of representative organising committee to draw workers into the campaign, reliance on action to render the union a visible focus for work identification, person to person recruitment, the use of advert or the media to pressure resistant employers. In the end, the strength of the union is best sustained by effective workplace organisation.
Organising Model was popular for various reasons, One reason was it helped attain improved wages. The ‘Justice for Cleaners' campaign shows the success of this. Another reason for ‘organising' is direct recruitment that is to market their services to new workplaces and to younger workers. The success of this can be seen by looking at the Honda factory in Swindon. Another major benefit of organising was it offered employment security and pay [5] .
Comparison of the Two Styles
In the partnership style, we can see that union leaders respond to the member complaints, while in the organizing style, the members deal with their own complaints and concerns. Partnering is considered to have high reliance on specialists and experts when trained, but for organizing, workers are trained to allow full participation and hence reduce the reliance. At the same time, this implies that workers are not specialized in specific tasks in the organising style. A major difference within the two is the reactive approach of partnering style, while proactive style functions on a proactive approach.
In conclusion, the ‘organising' style seems to be the opposite in behaviour from the principle behind 'social partnerships.
The Effectiveness Of Strategy
To assess the effectiveness of a union strategy, its ability to recruit and retain members is seen [6] . This rests on two factors. Firstly, on what Kelly and Heery called distant expansion. Secondly, on the union’s ability to recruit and retain its members in workplaces.
According to Heery: "It remains to be seen how a commitment to the organising model of trade unionism, can be reconciled with the union's traditional support for national ‘Social Partnership" [7] .This shows that even with though the two strategies exist; there is a higher dependence on the partnership strategy. Kelly’s argument that, "since it is difficult, if not impossible, to achieve a partnership with a party who would prefer that you didn’t exist, the growth of employer hostility is a major objection to the case for moderation’’ [8] shows that the ability to establish partnerships is very difficult and this in turn leads to a decline in the effectiveness of the strategy. So for partnership to succeed there needs to be a long term commitment between employees and the mangers to work closely along with unions.
Critics say organising model is unfitting to the task union’s face in the modern global economy. An example of this argument is by British Labour MP John Healey’s pamphlet published by the TUC.
At the same time, the ability of ‘organising' style to hold strikes allows them to appeal more to the members and hence is winning the battle for membership numbers.
The traditional view of the employer/trade union relationship has been one of confrontation. However, in most cases employers and union representatives have a constructive relationship.
Glasby and Dickinson noted that the word ‘partnership’ was recorded mere 38 times in 1989 in official parliamentary records. But by 2006 the figures had grown to11319 times.
unions should continue to explore partnership
unionism providing the conditions identified above are secured. This
conclusion is inconsistent with accounts that seek to portray partnership
unionism as necessarily quiescent and subordinate, and leading inevitably to

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