In 2019, there were 6.44 million trade union members in the UK. With the retirement age rising and pay remaining unchanged compared to inflation, trade unions hold an essential role in ensuring fairness and dignity in the workplace.
This blog sheds some light on the role of trade unions today and what professional and personal services we provide.
What is a trade union?
Trade unions are organisations whose members are workers or employees, often in a specific sector. The union looks after its member’s professional interests in workplace health and safety, equality, fair pay, pensions, and disputes. We act as a professional network with access to expert information and legal advice to represent members when a conflict arises.
Professional services offered by trade unions
Trade unions work on a large scale to improve the working conditions of employees across the UK. Throughout history, trade unions have achieved significant improvements for working people. Having played a key role in the introduction of the national minimum wage and the abolition of child labour. Unions have improved parental leave, passed legislation for equality, and made working conditions safer.
Unions help raise the wages of unionized workers by up to 20%. We set a pay standard that employers often follow, which usually means that strongly unionized sectors enjoy better benefits as a whole. In the same vein, union members receive better pension plans and health benefits.
The essential services a trade union provides are to:
- Negotiate agreements with employers regarding pay and working conditions
- Consultation around substantial changes, like large-scale redundancies or new workplace policies
- A strong collective voice that brings people together to campaign for change in their workplace, their sector or on issues they care about
- Discussing the concerns of individual members with employers
- Accompanying members to disciplinary or grievance meetings to protect their rights
- Helping members with legal and financial problems
Personal services offered by trade unions
At a personal level, trade unions can be a helpful resource for handling disputes or uncertainties in the workplace. We will often provide advice and assistance if you need to speak about harassment or unfair conditions at your work.
Informally, trade unions also give you access to a network of like-minded professionals. Through these connections, you can ask questions and compare standard practices. These conversations can help unearth inequalities at your work or poor practices that need addressing.
Should I join a trade union?
Joining a trade union presents you with a chance to voice your thoughts and rely on help if a dispute arises with your employer. We can guide you and offer advice if you think you are dealing with unfair treatment at work.
Being involved in a trade union is an excellent way to help shape the future of your industry as we ensure that wages, pensions, and working conditions remain fair, dignified, and respectful.
Similar to the insurance you would have for your personal items like your phone or bike, subscribing to a trade union membership ensures you have protection at work from unexpected events.
You can learn more about Community, and the reasons to be a part of our union here.
John Paul McHugh is Assistant General Secretary at Community.