This week is Heart Unions week. It’s the week of the year when trade unions across the UK highlight the good things that unions do for working people day in and day out.
Millions of workers love what trade unions do for them, but unfortunately, millions more workers don’t yet enjoy the benefits and support that come from union membership.
All too often media reporting around trade unions falls into two categories. First and foremost are strikes and industrial action. The second issue that gets press attention is the latest ups and downs of the Labour Party and what one general secretary or another may or may not have said about Jeremy Corbyn.
Sadly, these headlines miss about 99 per cent of what trade unions do. The thousands of people who have a trade union rep sat alongside them at a disciplinary meeting – and end up keeping their job as a result. The thousands of hours that are volunteered each month by men and women who want to support their colleagues. The lives improved or saved by the diligence and experience of union health & safety reps. And the pay increases won by the power of collective negotiation.
Although the numbers of union members are not as high as they used to be, there is still a wage premium won by union negotiation. On average, the pay in unionised workplaces is 13.7% higher than those where there is no trade union bargaining.
Then there are the countless legal and tribunal cases taken on by trade unions. Rights at work only mean something if they can be upheld and enforced. Too many employers don’t treat their workers properly and it’s only because people have a union behind them that they can get the justice at work that they deserve.
But trade union activity isn’t always about conflict. In fact, there are probably more examples of the practical, problem-solving, productivity-improving role of trade unions today – the only problem being that this doesn’t make the headlines. Heart Unions week tries to tell some of those stories instead.
The stories with union reps as agents of positive change in their workplace. The times when union reps have intervened to let managers know they think they’re getting things wrong (and how they could put things right). The union reps who are experts in their world of work, who understand how to make working practices better. The voice unions give to workers when they want things to improve.
That’s why Community invests so much in the education and training of our union reps, so that they’ve got the tools and the confidence to represent their colleagues and improve their workplaces. It’s a network that we want to extend, so we can grow the support we can provide to workers in the diverse range of businesses, charities and other organisations where our members work today.
Making sure we can make a positive difference to people’s working lives, no matter how or where they work, is the way we will reach out to millions more workers, and give them a reason to love their union.
If you want to get more involved or you want to share your Heart Unions story, please get in touch.
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