There are three main key words in this topic, partnership approach, trade union and employee relations. Partnership approach according to Darling (2000) is the means of creating effective interference or collaboration and according to this topic the future of the trade union lies with a partnership approach; to employee relations, which will mean working together with employers and employees. A trade union is according to Lewis et al.(2003 p.131) is, “a continuous association of wage earners for the purpose of maintaining or improving the conditions of their working life.”, other things such as its types, functions, how it affects the UK working system and how it affects both employees and employers will be explained in the main body. The term ’employee relations’ also according to Lewis et al. (2003 p.4) is that “it is an economic social and political relationship in which employees provide manual and mental labour in exchange for rewards allotted by employers”, it will be further discussed in the body of this essay; lastly, discussing what the pluralists view on this topic is and how the trade union relates to employee relations. Also how the future trade unions can be guaranteed by a partnership approach to employee relations. In the conclusion we will determine whether or not, by applying a partnership approach, the trade union in the UK is guaranteed.
Another definition a legal definition of a trade union according to Duddington, (2007, p.368) is “an organization consisting wholly or mainly of workers of one or more descriptions and whose principle purposes include the regulations and relations between workers of that description or descriptions and employers or their association” in summary it is an organization of workers related with their employers. Employees usually combine trade unions and the workplace in order to ensure the safety and security in their work place. The trade union was created to act as a link between the employees and employers hence the ‘partnership approach.’ There are different types , like if an employee is in a blue collar job (mining) for example (he would likely be in a union meant for blue collar jobbers) and he gets promoted, the employee is likely going to have to change unions to a white collar union.
Trade unions are often not together but can be divided into different types, according to Richard Pettinger (1999), they can be classified into industrial (people who work in the industry, mine workers, steelworkers), skilled (engineering), white collar, local government, technical. Amongst all this information it is still unaware of what trade union is for.
P.R.N Sinha (2006) stated that the primary function of trade unions is that they were created out of the needs of workers to protect and defend themselves from injustice and wrong, to give themselves a better life. All other objectives come from the main goal stated above. The objectives are as follows: improved economic status for the employee, shorter working days, improvement of working and living conditions, income security (like pension, provident fund, compensation for working injuries), better health and safety standards, respect for worker’s persona and improving political status. Although these functions are all taken into consideration, the matter of wages is seen mostly as a priority more than the rest.
An article from 2008 will be referred to and also in this paragraph, the trade unions effect on the working population has been dwindling in the UK. According to Craig Barrat (2008, p.2) in his article in the BERR (Department for business enterprise and regulatory reform) on trade unions in 2008, he stated in his key findings that “union membership for UK employees shows membership in 2008 has fallen by 1.8 per cent (125 thousand) to 6.9 million compared to 2007.” Also according to this article employees with twenty years of more of service has had the highest rate of union membership, others with less years of service or just coming into the service industry are less likely to be members approximately10.1 percentage in 2007, the UK nationality have a higher number of union members than non UK nationals. It also states in the article that (p.3)”Across all sectors, just under half of UK employees (46.7 per cent) were in a workplace where a trade union was present. One-third of UK employees have said their pay and conditions were affected by a collective agreement. Collective agreements covered one in five private sector employees, while in the public sector collective agreement coverage was over three and a half times greater at 70.5 per cent.” Meaning that that one- third of the working population were ok, with negotiating their pay and work needs without a trade union. An upside for members is that they earn 12.5 percent more than non-members, when they are both compared. According to this article there are still some employees that depend on trade unions, there may be a few advantages and disadvantages.
For employees, the trade union may have a positive and sometimes negative effect, on the positive note it is seen as security insurance (that is those who are members). For instance, the employees work for the employers at a risk, they may or may not be paid. The job of the trade union is now to make sure that he employees are not taken advantage of by the employers and that their needs are met and the agreement made between the two parties is not broken. On the negative side according to Hauke Barschel (2004 P.2), the negative effect on employees is that the idea of partnership caused or led to suspicion among employees. Employees flexibility that is “according to a case study of ScottishPower demonstrates that employees are committed to fulfil tasks below their individual level, also increasing flexibility can also imply that employees have to change the location of their job when it is necessary and work during uncomfortable hours” For employees who are not members, they do not get any of the benefits like those who are members. Though a law has been placed to prevent this and allow non-members some of the benefits. The employers may or may not like the trade union.
For the employers it also has a negative and positive impact on them, the negative is, according to Barschel, they feel the union may have too much influence on the managerial decisions, also because the employees have to be consulted at all times, decisions cannot be made as fast as before, which may prove a problem in trying to remain competitive. The company according to these agreement with the union, are ‘obliged’ to share information about business plans, which some may not be willing to do because they are regarded as confidential. In some cases the employees may not even be allowed to join a trade union e.g. Thomas Ford’s workers were harassed for being members. Both parties have to be in agreement for employees in an organization to take part in a trade union. The positive impact may be, according to Barschel (2004 p.3) that since long term pay goes with the partnership agreement(that is usually two years), they have the benefit of having stable or unchanging labour costs over a long period of time. The employees are also in the agreement required to recognise company goals, involving employees in ‘managerial’ activity and show open communication to advance their motivation and increase performance, therefore increasing company’s productivity and making more profit for their employers. Employees were committed to more flexible working practices and train to improve skills and providing the employers with better trained workforce. In most cases the advantages may outweigh the negatives but not always, but there is always going to be instability in the organisation, as in every relationship.
Employee relations is then according to P.N Singh (2010 p.5) he stated that industrial relations was originally ‘implied’ to be employer and employee relations, it is the relationship between the employers and employees and the forces in the environment that shape this relationship, it’s definition is, “the dealings or relationships of a usually large business or industrial enterprise with its own workers, with labour in general, with governmental agencies or with the public”. The definitions all point towards a relationship, a relationship between the owners of that business and of their workers. The general understanding is just that, relating to or with the employees, either socially or politically. Since strikes are caused often caused by weak communication links in the organisation, trade union’s partnership brings communication between the two parties, acting as a link, this way, the impact of industrial action is reduced greatly, Barschel (2004).
Pluralism according to P.N. Singh (2010 p.15) is the belief in the existence of several ruling principles giving a rise in conflict of interest. It believes that conflict in the organisation is unavoidable but containable through different arrangements made by the organization. If we refer their view to the topic it is basically saying that in an organization, conflict is bound to occur and by involving the trade union ‘organizational arrangement’ that whatever conflict can be resolved.
Trade union and employees are brought together by their mutual interest, that is, they want peace and stability of conflict in the organisation. They, including the employers, want stability also in the area of communication. The trade union acts as a communication link between the employers and employees, acting as an aid to building employee relations.
Its future can be guaranteed if it manages to influence or convince, the new recruits coming into the working sector that the trade union is still reliable and can deliver as promised. If they cannot do or deliver on this there is a possibility that they may have no bright future, slowly fading away as the years go by.
In this conclusion, it will be noted that the effect of the trade union on the employer, employee relationship is not positive or negative. On one note, there may be some disadvantages but it aids in resolving conflict in the organisation by restoring communication. The future of the trade union according to the information given in the body of this essay say that it does depend on the partnership approach but also not necessarily. Trade unions are known as old fashioned which is why some companies do not allow it, as stated in an above paragraph many of the employees do not depend on trade unions anymore but on the agreements made between the employer and employee. Besides, the workers just coming into the working sector may not be particularly interested in joining. Pluralism has stated that there are different ways of containing a conflict in an organization, a trade union may just be one of them, depending on the organization, there may be new ideas coming up on how to resolve conflicts without the help of the trade union. Trade union in particular may have to find a way of getting a lot of members from those just coming into the working sector, that is gather their interests and find common ground as it is unappealing and no longer modern or interesting.