Wednesday, August 22, 2012


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1.0 Introduction

This report addresses the introduction of trade union recognition agreements and its role in the 1st century workplace. The report commences with the definition of trade unions and what the aims, objectives and prime functions are. We then go on to look at the structure and trade unions and identify who is involved within this organisation. Once we have distinguished trade unions, we proceed further and take a look at the role of the Central Arbitration Committee (CAC), (the organisation responsible for dealing with certain aspects as the trade union recognition agreement), lightly touching on how the policies and procedures are formulated, and again, who is involved in the process. Here we look at the core aims/objectives and primary functions of the CAC, before moving on to the growth and decline of trade unions � identifying why it was necessary to have a recognition agreement introduced. We then go on to analyse how organisations survive with trade unions and how they endure without trade unions. The report then proceeds on to look at the legislative requirements for a trade union recognition agreement and identifies which procedures must be carried out by different organisations, (where they apply), before a union is legible for recognition. Once this has been achieved, we progress on to summarising the article by identifying what type of issues the trade union expects to get involved with, within the organisation, and what other agreements the trade union introduces to work along with. Finally, the report concludes the trade union recognition agreement and how successful it is or is not.

.0 Trade Unions

Trade unions are the most collective form of organisation to any employer. They are a mechanism for change and can also be seen as a means for improving communication. It can be seen as an institution for implementing a source of ideas from employer to employee, in order to improve the organisation. Even though trade unions proceed on the basis of collective bargaining, not every individual’s accounts are taken into consideration. This is because, mainly generalities are formed to try and keep the majority happy. Performance related pay may also contribute to this. Everyone has the opportunity to use trade unions to create a channel of communication between organisations. This is due to factors like enormous sizes of many firms, and the given time factor.

The most obvious threat is strikes. Substantially big industrial strikes at, especially, times of economic in capabilities can cause havoc and chaos. According to Webb, (10, p.1), a trade union is

‘A continuous association of wage earners for the purpose of maintaining or improving the conditions of their working lives’.

This is a classical definition that is perfectly relevant today also. However, it is not the only definition, as there are other opinions on how this should be viewed. A more contemporary view can be found through Rose, (001, p.1), provided by the Trade Union and Labour Relations (Consolidation) Act 1, which states that a trade union is

‘An organisation (whether permanent or temporary) consisting wholly or mainly of workers of one or more descriptions whose principal purpose includes regulation of relations between workers of that description and employers or employers’ associations’.

The main characteristics that can define a trade union are occupied from Blackburn (167). If the organisation is able to fully incorporate the following characteristics, then it should be considered as a sincere and enthusiastic trade union

• The organisation is able to declare itself as a trade union.

• Identify and record itself as a trade union, with the Certification Officer which can then allow the organisation to a special legal status.

• Identify and record itself with the Certification Officer as an independent organisation, through the Certificate of Independence.

• Associating itself to the TUC, Labour Party or by joining a group of unions.

• Prioritising it to function on the primary aspiration that ensures the maintenance and improvement of conditions of its members.

• The possible use of authority to further its aims, which could for example be achieved by taking significant industrial action.

Trade unions organise mainly by occupation or industry. An example of an Occupational Union is Manufacturing, Science and Finance (MSF), which recruits from non-manual, mainly managerial occupations across industries. An example of an Industrial Union is the National Union of Mineworkers which recruits exclusively from the Coal Mining Industry.

.1 Objectives

The main aims and objectives of trade unions are best summarised by the Trade Union Congress (TUC). These are to

• Improve conditions of work in employment.

• Improve the substantial atmosphere at work.

• Get rid off total unemployment and national poverty.

• Achieve secure employment and income.

• Improve social security benefits.

• Achieve fair shares of income between men and women.

• Achieve industrial independence.

• Achieve a government voice.

• Improve public and social services.

• Achieve industrial control and planning through the public.

(Adapted from Rose, E. 001, p.1)

The above mentioned points are those identified by the TUC as the main aims and objectives of trade unions. However, some of these objectives remain yet to be achieved.

. Main Aim and Functions

The specific functions of trade unions can be found in individual Trade Union Rule Books. Here they are summarised under six headings

Collective Bargaining � Concerned with determining wages, hours and conditions of work for union members, and is a central function of trade unions.

Safeguarding Jobs � Prime function is to keep union members in their jobs and protect these jobs. They also deal with issues of redundancy, but certain legal requirements apply for a trade union to be consulted in this delicate matter.

Co-operation with Employers � This function varies amongst unions and also between employers.

Political Activities � The traditional role of trade unions here is to act as political pressure groups. This action may also vary between different unions as those affiliated with the Labour Party, provide a significant figure of the party funds.

Provision of Social Services � Sometimes funds are provided for health, unemployment, and reasons of redundancy or death. Legitimate strikes can also be catered for, depending on the size of the union and providing sufficient funds are available.

Provision of Friendly Services � Again, depending on the size of the union, facilities may be provided in clubrooms, for leisure purposes.

. Structure of Trade Unions

Trade unions are self-governing organisations which are answerable to their members for their policies and actions. Unions are on the whole replicated on the following structure

Members � People who have registered, by payment of subscription are legible to belong to a union.

Shop Stewards � Elected by union members as representatives in front of employers (management).

Branches � There to support union members on a local basis, from different organisations.

District and/or Regional Offices � Here, the personnel are usually full-time union executives. It is the paid job of these people to offer advice and support to local union members.

National Office � The union headquarter, offering support to members and responsible for bargaining or operating for improvements to their working conditions. The people at the top of the organisation are elected by the union’s members and normally consist of a General Secretary and a National Executive Committee.

Unions Structure Diagram

Union Members

Shop Stewards

(Union Representatives)


District and Regional Offices

National Office


.0 Formulation of Policies and Procedures

Trade unions are controlled on the whole by the Central Arbitration Committee (CAC) who is responsible for drawing up related policies, and publishing procedures on a regular basis, for union members to follow, in the case of any work related disputes. Even though the CAC, (a specialist body with statutory powers, able to approach its legislative responsibilities in a variety of ways, including legally binding decisions where necessary), has the final word over trade union decisions, if prompted, it does not provide legal advice/assistance, which is the job of the unions themselves. Laws and regulations regarding recognition agreements are developed and passed through the government. This is the reason why trade unions hope to achieve a voice within a governing body, so that they are able to play a major part with concerning regulations.

.1 Functions of the Central Arbitration Committee

The main function of the CAC is to deliver judgment on submissions relating to the legal recognition and de-recognition of trade unions for collective bargaining purposes, where these cannot be decided willingly. It deals currently with three main areas of dispute, which are

1. Statutory applications for recognition and de-recognition of trade unions;

. Statutory applications for disclosure of information for collective bargaining;

. Disputes over the constitution of European Works Councils.

(Adapted from the CAC Annual Report 00/0, p.1)

. Objectives of the CAC

The CAC’s functions are based on achieving four main objectives. According to the CAC Annual Report of 00/0, published on 17th June 00, the Committee was assessed and awarded accreditation for best performance measures and achieved targets in January 00, based on its objectives, which are

1. To achieve outcomes which are practicable, lawful, impartial, and where possible voluntary.

. To provide a courteous and helpful service to all those who approach the CAC, by aiming to publish clear, accessible and up to date guidance and other information on their procedures and requirements.

. To provide an efficient service and to supply assistance and decisions as is consistent with good standards of accuracy and thoroughness, taking into account the wishes of the parties and the statutory timetables.

4. To develop staff so that they are fully equipped to do their work and contribute to the CAC’s aims.

(Taken from the CAC Annual Report 00/0, p.1)

4.0 Trade Union Membership Growth

While comprehensive membership grew throughout the period of 145-17, union membership saw a slight decline in most years until 167. However, in the 1 year period of 167-17, trade unions grew vastly due to a certain number of factors identified by Hawkins (181). Some of these growth factors include

• Rate of changes in prices and wages, or inflation.

• Unemployment and the threat of unemployment.

• Employer recognition of trade unions.

• Structural size of an establishment.

• Growth of employment within the public sector, particularly in areas such as health, education and local authority.

• Legal obligations to recognise trade unions.

• Disinclination of women to join trade unions began to vanish as more women started to realise the importance of their rights.

All of the factors mentioned, identified by Hawkins (181), exercise, in one way or another, some kind of positive influence on trade union membership. For example, the structural size of an establishment would mean that large numbers of employees are likely to be treated as members of a group, rather than individuals. Hence, enhancing the reason for more employees to join the union and let the union representatives do what they do best � negotiate for the individual.

4.1 The Nature of Trade Union Membership Decline

Waddington and Whitson (15) have found, from their research, a widespread summary of the nature and dimensions of membership decline. Based on this research, below are listed some of the main elements of decline, adapted by Rose (001)

• Male and female unionisation.

• Manual and white collar unionisation.

• Unionisation by sector.

• Unionisation by industry.

Even though trade union membership has seen large quantities of fluctuation during the 180’s and 10’s, a lot of the membership gains accomplished during the 170’s had been eliminated by 187. According to Rose (001), this is the longest period of decline ever to be continuously recorded since 17. The above factors contribute towards decline, as for example, take unionisation by sector, where unemployment grew immensely amongst manual workers (agriculture, forestry and fishing sectors), employment rose dramatically amid non-manual workers. Naturally, the fall in the manual sector meant a decline in union membership and the sudden rise of non-manual labour showed a slow response to union member subscriptions. This also may be due to de-recognition of trade unions as well the rejection to trade unions, of some applications submitted to the CAC for a recognition agreement.

5.0 Managing with Trade Unions

Realistically, managements and trade unions learn to live together, often on a give and take basis, with the belief that neither of them would advance from an atmosphere of resentment or by creating regular conflict. It should be assumed in this situation that communal benefits would come from behaving in accordance with the spirit and as well as the letter of agreed joint regulatory procedures. However, both parties should adopt a realistic pluralist position, recognising the certainty of different view points and opinions, even disputes, but considering it best to resolve issues on a personal basis rather than consult for industrial action.

Even though today, both organisations may be able to make an effort to get on with one another, management still considers giving industrial relations a lower priority. However, management may feel that it is easier to continue to operate within a union as they provide a useful, well-established channel for communication and for the handling of grievance, discipline and safety issues.

5.1 Managing without Trade Unions

The following points adapted by Armstrong (001, p.774), show characteristics of union-free organisations

• Strikes were almost unheard of.

• Labour turnover was high but absenteeism was no worse.

• Pay levels were generally set independently by management.

• In general, no alternative methods of employee representation existed as an option for trade union representatives.

• Employees in the non-union sector are twice as likely to be dismissed as those in unionised firms.

All the above factors indicate greater support to the management and the organisation. However, there are significant differences that can be identified between unionised and non-unionised workplaces. The downside of being employed in a non-unionised workplace is that for the employees are unable to negotiate with the same power as a union member. Thus, there will be little bargaining activity, and therefore, management will have total control over pay related issues as well as hours of work and holidays.

6.0 Legal Requirements (Practical Implications)

Trade unions have the statutory right to be recognised by a reluctant employer, based on the Employment Relations Act 1 (ERA’), introduced by the Labour government. The legislation is designed so that employers may willingly accept the integration of a union into their organisation, providing there is a joint agreement on the terms of collective bargaining, between management and trade unions. However, where an employer refuses recognition, the union must comply with given conditions of the law in order to gain access. The trade union is required to submit an appeal to the CAC with supporting evidence of a signed ballot, (a minimum of 10%), by employees from that organisation, stating membership with the union. Based on the legislative conditions, if the CAC agree to recognition, then the employer is legally bound to communicate with the TU, and negotiate at least, matters concerned with pay, hours of work and holidays. In other circumstances, the CAC is not indebted to pass recognition unless a secret ballot is signed by employees with a minimum of 40% of signatures. Nevertheless, the Employment Relations Act 1, does not apply to any organisation where there are under 1 employees and so, the employer maintains full control over the organisation.

6.1 Trade Union Recognition

Once the trade union has gained recognition, it will want to get involved within the organisation absolutely as much as it can. Unions will want, in some respects, control over all areas of the organisation and will want to change policies and procedures also. They will get concerned with areas such as

• Pay

• Discipline and grievance

• Recruitment selection

• Training and development

Trade unions will also go to the extent of getting other agreements to work with them and make sure they get involved too, for example, health and safety agreements.

7.0 Conclusion

Since the fluctuation period of trade unions, one can conclude that it is best for trade unions to not deliberately push for recognition within smaller organisations even though, those organisations might exceed the number of employees that legally bind the organisation to be recognised by the trade union recognition agreement. However, employers should also acknowledge the existence of trade unions and therefore, voluntarily accept recognition on a minimum of issues such as, matters of pay, hours of work and holidays. It is in the interest of every employee to remain satisfied, within reason, in their work environment. Employers also want the well-being of the company and ability to prosper on grounds of solidarity, whilst maintaining a good working relationship with its employees.

Trade unions should concentrate far more strictly on larger organisations and deal with as much as possible within those organisations, by means of voluntary recognition, or by means of legal recognition. It is the larger organisations that go over-looked by the management of that organisation and employees go treated unfairly. However, this does not mean that trade unions should not play a part within small organisations � they should. Nevertheless, even though legislation for union recognition exists, within these small organisations, trade unions should not inflict deliberate trouble upon these companies, where there is no evidence of unfair behaviour between the workforce and management.

As we have seen from this report, trade unions and related organisations like the CAC and the TUC, all work around each other to provide help and support for people who, at work, are not knowledgeable enough to deal with issues that arise in the everyday work place. Everyone has their own way around issues and there are many similarities between these people and the organisations that integrate to get voices heard and personal rights or issues resolved. However, trade union recognition is a problem which must be resolved, for the simple interests of employees, employers and their organisations. The whole purpose of trade unions is to improve and achieve full lengths of communication between employers and their workforce. The matter is simple, if employees are happy then employers will also remain pleased and organisations will run far better, (so long as employees rights, within reason, are met) and the majority will not complain. Similarly, if employees are not satisfied with working conditions then issues will evolve, and where nothing is done, disputes will arise.

8.0 References

• Armstrong, M. (001) A Handbook of Human Resource Management Practice. 8th Ed. London, Kogan

• Blackburn, R. M. (167) Union Character and Social Class. London, Batsford

• Brown, W. et al. (001) the Limits of Statutory Trade Union Recognition. ESRC Centre for Business Research, University of Cambridge. Working Paper No.1

• Central Arbitration Committee Annual Report 00/0

• Corbridge, M. and Pilbeam, S. (00) People Resourcing HRM in Practice. nd Ed. London, Prentice

• Hall, L. and Torrington, D. (11) Employee Resourcing. London, Wimbledon

• Hawkins, K. (181) Trade Unions. London, Hutchinson

• Rose, E. (001) Employment Relations. London, Prentice Hall

• Waddington, J. and Whitson, C. (15) Trade Unions Growth Structure and Policy

• Webb, S. and Webb, B. (10) the History of Trade Unionism 1866-10. London, Longman

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