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Employee's Unions

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An employee’s organization is an interest group or advocacy group that tries to influence government policies through lobbying. A union is an association of workers established to improve economic and social conditions. In a non-union workplace:

  • Employer makes all rules, sets the wage rates, and makes all decisions on things like discipline, promotions, and hours of work. The worker has no voice.

In a Union workplace:

  • The Union bargains with the employer for a contract, makes sure the contract is carried out. Your Collective Agreement is a contract. Contracts are legal documents between you and your employer that spell out wages, benefits, and rules of employment (Cooper & United States, 2009).

The role and position of the organization for employees will differ from one country to another, primarily based on the economic system. The union's basic job is to bargain with employers to determine the best wages and working conditions for its members. Most unions provide employment services, insurance, and other benefits.

Countries with Anglo-Saxon or pluralist (Poole, 2006) economic systems (United Kingdom and the United States), don’t have institutionalized relationships between employee’s organizations, trade unions and the government. Organizations tend to be weak, with many of their functions taken over by industry trade groups, which are in most instances public relations organizations.

Countries with social market economies have the organizations being part of a system of institutionalized deliberation in conjunction with government and the trade unions. In tri-partite bargaining, social partners strike agreements on issues like price levels, wage increments, tax rates, and pension entitlements.

A union organizer refers to a specific type of trade union member (normally elected) or an appointed union official. Majorities of unions prefer appointing to electing their organizers, as democracy is not always a reflection of personal ability but rather popularity. During organizing campaigns, management’s role is to recruit groups of workers under the organizing model. Organizer's role is largely that of servicing members and enforcing work rules (Twomey, 2010). They may equally take on industrial/legal roles like making representations before tribunals or courts.

The differences between unionized and union-free environments include:

Complicated communication routes - Communication is one of HR solutions’ power dimensions. Good communication between management and employees is important and aids in building employee engagement and contention. Introduction of a union, however, complicates usual communication routes given particular messages must go through the union to get to and from employees. This acts as a filter and delays, clouds, or gets rid of the messages that could lead to confusion and frustration among employees (Poole, 2006).

Focus on union - Union formation will lead to the immediate focus on contract negotiations, pay, organization’s benefits, and workplace policies. Much as the elements are important, they are not the key drivers of employee engagement or overall job satisfaction. Unions would have to focus on the issues like recognition, career development, relationship supervisor has with employees (see us-vs.-them mentality discussed below), and the organization's strategy and mission in a bid to raise the satisfaction levels (Poole, 2006).

Negotiated Pay Increases – Compensation is regulated by contracts in unionized environments. They allow employees to receive fair wages. However, they remove connection between merit and compensation, leading to the sharp decrease in engagement levels. When a union is present, employees must hand over a portion of their paycheck each month as member contributions (Twomey, 2010). Dues could lead to feelings of dissatisfaction, especially when employees do not see the results expected from unionization.

Union control – In unionized environments, unions determine largely the organization’s working conditions. Unions have to approve the purchase of equipment or any work before its completion, thereby, causing interference and entire process delay.

Us-Vs.-Them Mentality – Presence of a union leads to the heightened tension between the groups of employees and between employees and management due to the us-vs.-them mentality. Employees belonging to different departments can feel the divide, when they believe their departments' needs are not being treated with the same care, as other departments' needs. Unions may also make employees feel even further separated from management, making management seem like the "enemy" (Pleasure & Cohen, 2007), as a result of a lack of trust in management, thereby, lowering engagement and satisfaction.

Unionized organizations do not have satisfied or engaged employees; they should make sure their employees do not feel the need to organize. Unionization should just be used as a final attempt by organizations with extremely low employee engagement, satisfaction, and morale. One of the options for them is to minimize the possibility that employees will want to unionize. Smart organizations that want to remain non-union listen to their employees through formal and confidential surveying, making their union vulnerability risk non-existent. Through staying ahead and caring about employees, organizations can minimize their risk of unionization (Cooper & United States, 2009).

Management representatives employ various methods to secure recognition with the ultimate goal being a collective bargaining agreement. The methods can be classified as being either top-down organizing or bottom-up organizing. Top-down organizing focuses on persuading management through salesmanship or pressure tactics. Management will be allowed to talk on any issues it will have addressed for the unionized workers. Say, for instance, if there is a decision that there will be a pay rise, management must come forward as a part of confirmation on what will be agreed with the union.

Here are some laws or regulations that relate to labor unions (Kelber, 2006):

Employees democratically choose to organize into unions. A Union must represent its members and non-members equally and without preference or discrimination in dealing with their employer.

Non-members may choose to pay only for a union’s actual bargaining and workplace representation, not political activity, lobbying and other programs. 

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