Page 2: Representation at work
Trade unions represent their members at work. They can help to increase wages, agree working hours and improve working conditions. They do this by negotiating with employers on behalf of their members. This is called collective bargaining and it gives trade unions greater power than one individual worker would have during negotiations.
Sometimes trade unions encourage workers to take industrial action to help them meet their goals. Strikes and overtime bans are examples of industrial action. However, most disputes are settled before this takes place. The number of days lost through strike action has significantly decreased in the past two decades. Unions now work more closely with employers in partnerships which benefit the employer and employee and help contribute towards a more competitive economy.
Benefits of union membership
Membership of a trade union can also provide other benefits. Members may receive:
- legal advice and services to help with any problems at work
- special offers and discounts on things like car insurance
- personal development opportunities to gain basic skills or professional qualifications.
Trade union membership is particularly important for young workers. These employees are the most likely to receive low wages. They may also lack the confidence to query whether their working conditions are suitable.
By joining a trade union a young worker becomes part of a group of fellow workers with a shared interest. The union appoints representatives who hold regular meetings within the union and externally.
UNISON is involved at local and national levels in industrial relations and collective bargaining. It is able to make sure that apprentices are:
- provided with good quality training schemes in public services
- covered by minimum wage legislation to receive decent wages
- not discriminated against for any reason.
UNISON has a commitment to involving young members in running the union. Its members act together to sort out work problems. Being a member of UNISON gives access to free legal advice, a telephone support service (UNISONdirect) and a host of other benefits such as discounted mortgages, insurance and holidays.