A union is an organised group of workers whose aim is to protect their members and improve their employment conditions. The Australian Bureau of Statistics found that in August 2012, 20% of full time employees and 14% of part time employees were members of unions. Although this data shows a decrease in union membership over the last decade or so, the unions are still a very important part of the workplace.
In Australia, it is illegal for an employer to fire a worker for being a member of a union, and they are unable to prevent workers from joining a union (Trade Unions 2012). In the same respect, management cannot force employees to join unions or treat their staff unfairly for belonging to a union (Fair Work Ombudsman 2013).
This essay will focus on the importance of unions in the workplace and will discuss why management should not have the right to determine whether a union should operate in the workplace. This will be done by looking at the role of the union and by looking from the point of view of each of the three employment relations perspectives: unitarism, pluralism and radicalism.
The role of the union
The very first unions emerged during the 19th century during the uprising of the industrial capitalist system. These unions were initially small in size and were formed by workers as a platform to represent and protect their interests in the workplace (Baoill 2011). In Australia, the first groups to be covered by unions were ‘skilled artisan males’ (Bray, Waring & Cooper 2011). Looking forward one hundred or so years and the primary purpose of trade unions remains the same, though they now cover a much larger variety of workers, ‘including white-collar and blue-collar workers, skilled and unskilled workers, workers in both the public and private sectors, men and – increasingly importantly – women’ (Bray, Waring & Cooper 2011).
As previously mentioned, the role of unions first and foremost is to represent the interests of its members (the workers) and to protect them. This can be achieved as unions fight for better wages, job security, improved terms of employment and working conditions through collective bargaining (Calmfors et. al 2001).
Employers initially resisted unions as they were seen as a ‘tool of worker power’, and some countries even banned the groups all together (Baoill 2011). Although these restraints have been lifted, restrictions and guidelines have been put in place by government bodies to govern union activity; and employees internationally have the right to form unions (Baoill 2011).
Being part of a union gives members the benefit of negotiating with their employer collectively, as part of a group; giving them more power than if they were to negotiate as individuals (Silverman, n.d.). Overall, unions demand fairness which can lead to the unions influencing and changing ‘managerial decision-making at the workplace level’ for decisions in which employees are affected (Verma 2005). Unions are also beneficial to have...