Page 1: Introduction
There are many issues in the workplace that require discussion, for example, attention to health and safety at work. This helps to keep accidents to a minimum. Other important issues include the environment, training, facilities for staff, pay and conditions and equal rights. These affect employees' ability to do their jobs well and happily.
When these issues arise, employees frequently need help to resolve problems or conflicts. It is difficult for individual employees to discuss every issue with their managers. They may need representation. A trade union does this by representing their interests with management in order to protect members' interests and rights.
A trade union is an organisation that helps and supports working people. The largest public services trade union in Britain is UNISON. It has:
- 1.3 million members
- headquarters in London
- 12 regional offices, including one in South Wales and one in Northern Ireland
- 1,200 staff
- 1,300 branches
UNISON performs many different roles for its members. It organises conferences and represents and supports its members across a range of issues. Its members are mainly from the public services. These include local authorities, the NHS, colleges and schools, transport and the voluntary sector. It also represents workers in utility companies like electricity, gas and water.
This case study focuses on just one of these issues - the way businesses impact on the environment.
One of UNISON's aims is to help to improve the environment at work and, by so doing, contribute to efforts to tackle climate change. UNISON believes the key to this is changing behaviours at work. UNISON has therefore developed aims and objectives designed to facilitate new ways of working.
There are many shared roles for employers and trade unions in the workplace. Employers and trade unions work together to ensure that workplaces are safe and healthy places. Working to safeguard the environment is a similar issue. Focusing on maintaining 'green' environments ensures less pollution, better working conditions and lessens the impact of work on the wider environment too. This can also help to reduce costs, which means an organisation can use its resources more effectively, leading to improved business profits and better terms and conditions for the workforce.
UNISON is currently focusing on two approaches to make the workplace 'greener':
- It has been lobbying government. UNISON has talked to members of parliament about environmental issues within the workplace in order to promote the idea of a sustainable workplace. This has helped politicians realise how important this issue is. Government now knows what people really think about the environment. UNISON therefore influences the decisions government makes.
- UNISON has also been talking with employers. The impact of business on the environment is a very important issue for employers and is one in which they have responsibilities. Environmental issues have become part of the bargaining agenda. UNISON helps to make employers more supportive by including them in its plans.