Trade Union: Definition, Functions, Purpose & Problems

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In this article, we explain what a union is, its history and types that exist. In addition, its importance, functions and examples from around the world.

What is Trade Union?

A trade union is an organization of paid workers employed for the purpose of improving the salarles and conditions of service/work.

Trade Union
Trade Union

Purpose & Functions of Trade Union

  • To organize the workers into an effective and functional group.
  • To seek improvement in the conditions of service for their members.
  • To educate their members on their civil and political responsibilities.
  • To organize the workers into an effective voice in matters that affect them.

What is the Function of a Union?

One of the most frequently heard terms in the workplace is “the union“, however, several workers and entrepreneurs do not know exactly what it is? What are its functions? And how can it benefit or affect them?

In companies with a high number of employees, unions are usually managed, a group in which both employees and employers join. These groups are represented by a person, who seeks dialogue and negotiation for the benefit of the group of workers he represents, against the company where he works.

Functions of the Unions

Among the functions performed by a union are the following:

  • It collects the will of its members and provides them with a space for debate and agreement.
  • Negotiates with the employer the claims and/or demands of the workers, to reach a collective bargaining agreement.
  • It ensures the minimum conditions of workers in labor, health and social matters.
  • It represents its members before other larger workers’ organizations, such as the Federations.
  • Constant communication with workers and employers
  • Study of working conditions within the company
  • Work improvement proposals
  • Defense of the interests of the represented group
  • Realization and signing of collective contracts

It should be noted that collective agreements are the basis of obligations and rights that a company and the group of workers who are affiliated to a union will have for the realization of a project.

The workers and the company must reach an agreement to be able to put the contract in writing, for its signature. The contract will end at the end of the project, by mutual consent or by closure of the company.

Unions bring benefits to both the worker and the company, being a conciliator of both parties, however, there are groups of unions that do not follow the philosophy for which they were created, causing damage to the company and workers, that is why recommends that before you join one, you do a background check.

Unions are an option to facilitate communication, but a company with a high number of employees can work efficiently without the need for one.

Problems of Management of Trade Unions

  • There is a problem of choosing the right leaders at both the national and state levels.
  • Financial mismanagement is frequently a feature of union administration.
  • Influence of politics frequently destroys the trade union unity.
  • Ethnic factors affect appointments into leadership positions and also loyalty of members.
  • Union rivalry for leadership particularly among the industrial unions is a serious problem.

Types of Unions

Formerly, the unions were formed according to the trade: union of shoemakers, construction workers, etc. But during the 20th century, this tendency was in disuse and the grouping of workers according to their economic or productive sector was preferred, so as to have few unions with a lot of representation, and not the other way around.

Now, from the point of view of its representative mechanism, we can classify unions in:

  • First grade unions: When they are made up of affiliated workers, directly, that is, by individuals;
  • Second grade unions: Known as Federations, they are unions of first degree unions;
  • Third grade unions: Made up of different union federations and first-tier unions as well, either sectorally (by production line) or centrally (of different lines).

Examples of Trade Union

Some examples of unions can be:

  • The International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC): the main international trade union organization, which represents the interests of the world’s workers through inter-union cooperation, global campaigning and advocacy within the main global institutions.
  • National Basketball Players Association (NBPA): union that brings together the players of the NBA (National Basketball Association), the most important basketball league.
  • IG Metall: German organization of the metal sector, considered one of the largest and most important unions in Europe.
  • United Auto Workers (UAW): union of automotive workers in the USA, where there are representatives of the unions of the 3 largest automobile manufacturers in that country: General Motors, Ford and Fiat Chrysler.
  • Federation of Associations of Public Accountants of Venezuela (FCCPV): brings together all the Associations of Public Accountants of each of the States of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela. This has an exclusively professional character, a legal personality and its own assets.
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