What place the Unions in 2011?


The Trade Union Movement was legalised in the UK in 1871.  From what I read, at the time working conditions, whilst rapidly improving, were still pretty dreadful.  Workers had little by way of rights and many Employer treated employees with a very straightforward management style.  You turn up, you get paid, you don’t turn up, you don’t get paid.  Should you continue not to turn up, don’t bother coming back.  Can you imagine that today?

No such thing as maternity leave, paternity leave, flexible working, contracts of employment, notice periods, sick pay, death in service benefit, pay reviews, annual pay increases, appraisals, redundancy payments, duvet days, chill out rooms, company gyms, health club membership, private health cover, flexible benefits, days off in lieu.  Need a trip to the Dentist?  Tough no pay.  Need to collect the kids?  Tough no pay?  Wife had a Baby?  Congratulations, now get back to work.

The Unions have done an incredible job since the Tolpuddle Martys to ensure that work, pay and conditions are something that we can be proud of in the developed world and rightly so.  Clearly some parts of this planet have a long way to go, but on the whole working conditions have improved immeasurably.

So what do we need Trade Unions for in 2011?  Are they an invaluable defender of workers rights, or simply an over – bloated, unnecessary relic of a bygone era?  Workers have never had it so good, have we?

Union Leaders are some of the best paid, do they deserve it for the greater contribution they make, for the goodwill of the working majority?  Are they simply self serving, rewarding themselves handsomely from members subscriptions whilst embarking on a shameless quest of self promotion?

So what’s your view?  What place the Unions in 2011?  Let me have your comments, I would love to listen.

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5 responses to “What place the Unions in 2011?

  1. Pingback: Tweets that mention What place the Unions in 2011? | The Recruiters Little Black Book -- Topsy.com

  2. Great post!

    I actually don’t think Unions have any place in today’s working culture. There is more than enough employment legislation to look after people at work.

    When the likes of Bob Crow and Tony Woodley take their members out on strike (when the majority have no appetite for action), I can’t help thinking that:

    1. They have to do something to justify their £100k salary & pension packages.

    2. They love being on TV

    What do these strikes actually achieve?

    My wife works in the NHS. She has to be a member of UNISON. She has no choice in the matter. A subscription is taken from her salary in the same way NI contributions are.

    Surely this is wrong?

    • Hi Alastair, thanks for your contribution and kind words. I agree with your comments, its wrong that your wife has no choice but to be a member of UNISON and indeed that she is forced therefore to subscribe in this way. If you want to join a Union then that is your right and you should have the choice as to which Union that should be, but to be forced, that is wrong. Employment law is such in this day and age that I am not convinced as to what they are here to achieve other than to promote and line the pockets of their Leaders who force action to justify their existence. I am waiting to be convinced that this is not the case but see nothing to persuade me otherwise.

    • Darren Newman

      Actually your wife is free to leave unison if she wants and to inform her employer that she no longer wants any deductions made from her salary in respect of union membership. She has the right not to be subjected to any detriment for refusing to belong to a trade union.

      If people keep joining trade unions then there must be a demand for them. Union bosses have to stand for regular elections and our strike laws are some of the most restrictive in the western world. Days lost due to industrial action are at historically low levels and workers nave the right to refuse to take part without being subjected to any detriment by their union.

      I’m sure no-one is saying abolish unions, so what exactly is the debate about. When you say do ‘we’ need them, who is ‘we’? Unions serve their members, and if they fail to do so then the members will walk away. The fact is that millions of people are members of a union so there must still be a need for them.

      • Hi Darren, thank you for getting involved, your contribution to the debate is much appreciated. In particular thank you for pointing out that you Alastair’s wife is free to leave UNISON should see so wish. The number of people in employment in the UK is around 29 million. Union membership is I believe around 7 million, virtually half the number at its peak of around 13 million. So unions represent the views of around a quarter of UK workers. Do you know how many of those 7 million are “active” and how many are like Alastairs wife? ( I don’t know the answer to that). I am just don’t see what positive contribution the unions make to the UK economy in 2011.

        Employment Law is such that Employees are very much protected from unscrupulous employees (that is not to say they don’t exist, but it is a lot harder for them to survive) and pay and conditions are better now than at any time in history. Employers understand the value in engaging employees and creating the right conditions for a company to thrive. They also understand the war for talent. So what do Unions actually exist for? What do they actually contribute? I am not saying that they should be abolished, I am just keen to understand what purpose they actually serve and if they are relevant today?

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