Trade Unions in the workplace
By: Shenaaz Khan

Trade Unions in the workplace


To the majority of business owners, having their employees join a trade union is synonymous with betrayal.


The purpose of a trade union is to assist and represent employees in protecting their rights and to further their interests. Employees may seek membership with a trade union for various reasons, the most common of which are- the employee is unhappy in his or her workplace and feels the situation cannot be changed without outside influence; or the employee feels that he or she has no method of communication with the employer and that communication can be forced with the introduction of a trade union.


Of course it would only be natural for an employer to feel betrayed when he feels that he has a good relationship with his staff. Employers at times are blindsided when this happens and in these instances the interaction between employer and employee becomes strained and a healthy working relationship is no longer conceivable.


Employers all tell a similar tale when a trade union is discussed. After establishing membership with a trade union the employees behave as if they have become invincible and work ethic is non-existent. Employers are dealt an unfair hand and are left with a workforce that is not interested in work and believe that the union can protect them and their employment no matter what. The largest issue faced with is the potential of employees going on strike, leaving the business at a standstill.


Trade unions have become a thriving business nationwide. Over time the workforce has developed a sense of entitlement over hard work and in turn the demand for trade unions has increased. The influence of a trade union may be strong and to an employee it is sold as something that he or she cannot go without. Union officials preach of rights and entitlements, guaranteeing to employees protection and increased incomes. Several trade unions have added funeral policies and debt cover plans to their monthly subscriptions to be more appealing.


Is there any way to prevent your employee from joining a trade union? There is no sure-fire way to prevent this however there are steps that can be taken to reduce the chances of your employees joining a union. Creating a relationship between employees and management that allows for employees to express their concerns as well as entering into discussions regarding employee benefits and annual increases or bonuses.


The Labour Relations Act provides the processes to be followed as well as the types of rights the trade union has in respect to the employees and negotiating of employment conditions and wages. The duties of both the trade union and the employer are laid out and can work in either party’s favour depending on how you use the legislation.


Employers must remember that the way in which you choose to deal with the approach of a trade union is crucial and shall dictate the relationship. Ensuring that you abide by the law in your dealings with the union whilst ensuring there is no shift in power is no easy feat. Having a successful relationship with a trade union is possible and can be achieved provided that you are equipped with knowledge of the rules and regulations of the Labour Relations Act and your rights as an employer.


Trade unions may not be the end of the world but can be time consuming, preventing a business owner from focusing on the growth of his business. If you’re experiencing difficulties with a trade union in your business contact our offices for advice.


Shenaaz Khan

Consultant at Labour Specialists Employer Solutions

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