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Trade unions are organizations that regulate relations between employers (including the government) and the workers with the objective of improving the working terms, and conditions of their lives as well as maintaining good working conditions (Jackson, 1982). In Hong Kong, the role of trade unions are completely similar to those of developed states, and they include negotiating for worker’s interests, helping the workers in handling labor disputes, service provision to members, and participation in social issues. These roles of trade unions in Hong Kong depict the definition of trade unions on universal basis. For instance, the trade unions in Hong Kong have played a great part in influencing the political-labor movement in china (Benson, 2008).
Value of Trade Unions
Trade unions do only equal the workers before the law but also promotes their rights in the results of their work or rather labor (Benson, 2008). They help in overcoming antagonism and prejudice. As a result, trade unions help in securing their right to life with the help in maintain their living standards so that they can be able to guard their health, lives and homes. They are essential organizations that promote and protect interests of their members as members, and as employees in general. That is why the workers can be protected from the excesses that their employers commit them to do, and in meeting other needs of workers, that is; political, social and economic. As a result, philosophies, objectives and economic or social programming of trade unions are linked to a supreme goal, which is promotion and protection of concerns or rather interests of the employees. The other objectives of the trade unions branch from this supreme goal of trade unions. However, it is vital for this study to acknowledge that all trade unions are not equal (Benson, 2008). This is due to the fact that trade unions operate in different concrete political, industrial and economic environments. These environments largely affect the way trade unions operate. That is the reason why some trade unions are recognized to be more effective as compared to others. That is also the reason why some trade unions are dismissed to be ineffective. It is also vital for one to understand that trade unions are managed by different administrations. Some administrations are aggressive and effective. On the other hand, some administrations are perceived to be ineffective and conservative. This explains the vast differences between administrations in trade unions. This has been experienced where great changes are likely to be experienced when one administration is gotten rid-off as the other administration takes charge.
Additionally, there are specific objectives that are linked to the major objective of promoting and protecting employee’s interests. These objectives include; shorter time of work, improved economic status, improved living and working conditions, income security-pension, compensation for work injuries, job security- and improved welfare standards or a better health status.
Cons of Trade Unions
There is the aspect of most trade unions demanding for compulsory membership of employees in the trade unions (Benson, 2008). This is looked by employees from a negative point of view. It has a negative impact on the freedom of a given individual. This is because it is viewed as an infringement of the individual’s right to work with the employer of choice who accepts to hire the employee. There are cases where some workers are likely to criticize the administration and management of a given trade unions since they would not like to join that trade union. This is linked to the fact that some trade unions are ineffective, and waste the employee’s contribution in issues that are not important including corruption. That why it would be unfair to deprive one’s right of working wherever one likes in respecting an individual’s liberty and freedom. Therefore, compulsory unionism is seen as unrealistic because it usually destroys the employees’ freedom to select the employer of choice, and one’s occupation together with the power to criticize the union’s leadership and policies.
In many instances, collective bargaining tends to categorize all workers in the same group whether hardworking or unproductive (Kabange, 2011). As a result, trade unions are likely to prevent the productive workers from being differentiated from unproductive workers. Hence, the productive employees are not likely to be rewarded appropriately.
In the course of strikes and picketing several working hours are lost, and hence productivity is inhibited, in addition, whenever strikes occur there are key participants who are workers and members of trade unions who get fired by the government (Kabange, 2011). There are cases where the government takes opportunities of strikes to get rid of excess staff with the objective of employing lesser employees that are affordable to pay. This is in cases where the employees’ demands are perceived to be in excess hence likely to strain the state’s budget leading to increased taxes. The government may feel threatened by these challenges. As a result, it takes this opportunity to get rid of some staff to reach a level that can be paid without much straining of the government. Therefore, some employees become victims of lay-offs and sacking in excuse of striking. This leads to increased levels of unemployment in a given country as a result of trade union activities.
Involvement of trade unions and participation of workers leads to workers becoming excessively critical and conscious of the activities and methods of management (Kabange, 2011). This results to their hindrance of opportunities in promotions and training. This is especially if the two opportunities are at the sole organizational and disposal of the management.
Pros of Trade Unions
As said earlier, trade unions usually promote the interests of employees through protecting their rights that are linked to compensation and working conditions. Therefore, trade unions usually provide the members the power to receive, and access the benefits accrued from collective bargaining with the employer who could be the governments (Kabange, 2011).
In addition, in an attempt to protect workers from encroachment the trade unions shield employees from unfair or injustice exploitation or rather victimization by the employer. These exploitations can be linked to unfair dismissal and negative labor laws (Kabange, 2011).
There are instances where trade unions provide members with training programmes that help them access their rights (Kabange, 2011). Ignorance is destructive to ones ways of living. Knowledge is power, and hence employees can be able to understand the importance of their work. Correspondingly they gain expectations from their employees. Employees should be exposed to learning programmes that are linked to motivational concepts that give workers the desire to be productive. Motivation works better that use of threats and negative methods of influencing people to work. Therefore, employees can learn several aspects of organizational behavior in relation to their needs.
There are issues like; Debates concerning money as a motivating factor in business and organizations in general have become a challenge to many leaders and managers (Gobillot, 2011). This is due to the fact that many people avoid reducing motivation of employees to, just a matter, of money only. Issues concerning money as a motivating factor began when management gurus claim that money is not a motivation factor only to end with the statement “but that does not mean that money is not necessary.” This is the reason why the debate about money has heated causing a lot of confusion to both the employees and the management bodies. Many leaders ask their employees to be committed through devoting their time, skills and power to the organization (Gobillot, 2011). Leaders always want people that will join the company with the objective of caring, staying and to largely contribute to the welfare of the organization. The question that arises from this issue is the question “will money buy this commitment from the staff?” Putting it in other words, does money motivate? Having this notion about the expectations of the leaders leads people to the kind of thinking which corresponds to hard work, determination, desire and actions aimed at accomplishing tasks and fulfilling projects of the organization promptly under minimum supervision. Commitment in an organization looks more of an emotional thing which concerns how an employee feels inside including the readiness to act and work properly (Gobillot, 2011). This leads one to Abraham Maslow is a management guru who formulated the Maslow’s hierarchy of needs theory. This theory arranges human needs according to their importance to each and every individual. The needs are arranged where the most important need is put at the base of the pyramid that acts as an illustration. In this theory, the higher one goes in the pyramid the more he or she covers the needs with accordance to the importance of the needs (Moorhead, 2011). According to this theory, it is not possible for one to skip any step and hence one has to move from one stage from the base or rather the foundation of the pyramid to the tip of the pyramid. The Maslow’s hierarchy of needs appears as follows; physiological needs, followed by security needs, belongingness needs follow, esteem needs and finally, self actualization needs (Moorhead, 2011). Physiological needs pertain needs that concern sustenance of an individual which relies on wages or salaries for that matter. It is argued that employees want to feel important and useful (Moorhead, 2011).
Another benefit associated with joining trade unions is that these trade unions offer their members with assistance on legal matters especially where there are disciplinary issues and legal suits (Kabange, 2011). In lives of employees, they face various challenges that may result from the nature of their work. Employees in the accounts department are victims in these areas where figures are involved. The procurement department is another department involved in this issue where one can be involved in unintentional mistake that goes against the procurement procedures. Thus, trade unions are important in legal matters in giving victims advice together with moral and financial support.
In addition, trade unions are important in negotiations on compensation and employee rewards. This is in cases of harmonization of employee salaries (Kabange, 2011). These actions are geared towards improving the living standards of the employees.
Businesses or Industries in Hong Kong that Have Trade Unions
In Hong Kong, legal trade unions are dominated by both occupational and industrial unions. They are usually found in the main economic sectors that include electronics, garments and plastics. Non-manufacturing sectors like retail, construction and backing also have members in trade unions (Benson, 2008).
The Reason for employees in Hong Kong to think that Trade Unions cannot represent them
In Hong Kong there are legal restrictions placed against trade unions especially restrictions against receiving donations from international contributions without a permit from the authorities in Hong Kong (UNHCR, 2012). These rules were enforced in 1975. In addition, trade unions in Hong Kong can strike but the law has limited the strikes (UNHCR, 2012). Those who strike are not well protected, and hence after strikes there are workers who are only compensated but not reinstated. The police in Hong Kong also use force in breaking up pickets and public demonstrations against the government. This is aimed at suppressing worker’s power to criticize and provoke the government. The government of Hong Kong has also ensured that the workers are not given power to claim and enforce their bargaining rights. That has been seen where Hong Kong Confederation of Trade Unions (HKCTU) has been sidelined from inclusion in the Labor Advisory Board (LAB) (UNHCR, 2012). Therefore, in few words, HKCTU is denied the power to negotiate for good working standards and better remuneration of the workers. There are various violations like in 2011 where an organization known as Campus Facilities Management Company Limited union requested for better salaries for its workers, and the management refused. Even the workers in Hong Kong container terminals are poorly paid, and after submitting a request for salaries’ increase they were denied their negotiation rights (UNHCR, 2012).
Finally, people in Hong Kong have past negative memories concerning the Chinese revolution where families suffered (Hall, 1991). Therefore, many fear losing their jobs.
The reasons why Workers belief Trade Unions can represent them
The Chinese government usually avoids labor conflicts in a big way. Therefore, in most cases, it is forced to listen to the complaints of Chinese workers at early stages before the issues get out of hand (Hall, 1991). The government is also careful in ensuring matters of production in Hong Kong are not interfered. Therefore, it likes to avoid situations where workers are not working and the private or public sector is at stand still. Therefore, the union members have confidence that the unions will be able to protect them from exploitation. Finally, the government of China has a tendency to attract its investors through luring them to come. Therefore, it does not allow bad images like strikes in Hong Kong. Strikes show that there is a problem that might lead to economic instability in Hong Kong (Hall, 1991).
Trade unions in other countries
French Trade Union movement is one of the weakest trade unions in Europe. It is also weaker than FTU of China. Trade unions are not a preference in France. Only 8% of the employees in France are members of unions (ITUI, 2012). In France, there are various rival confederations that usually compete for the low membership experienced in France. However, French trade union is known to be effective in mobilizing French workers. It is also widely supported in elections where employee representatives are voted.
The international Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) in affiliation with International Labor Organization recently launched a project that will last for two years whose objective is to strengthen participation in trade unions in the international scene. This project has financial support from Spain (UNEP, 2012). In other words, international trade unions are doing their best to ensure that people sign their membership into trade unions universally. They want to ensure that workers are fully engaged in improving working conditions especially in enforcing environmental matters. They focus on supporting trade union’s activities. They also focus on creating awareness, and the link between environmental sustainability and labor rights. This involves safety and health.
Additionally, it focuses on capacity building. They are ensuring workers all over the world are actively involved in international environmental policies (UNEP, 2012).
Employees should focus in supporting each other in protecting their economical rights and working condition. Workers in Hong Kong should avoid individualistic believes where everyone lives for himself. This is because unity is strength. It is easier for the views of many people to be listened when compared to the views of one individual. The government listens to majority of the people because a complaint from majority is taken seriously.
In addition, trade unions should ensure that people do not lose their jobs in situations where strikes occur. Whenever they go back to work when other are fired they discourage people from participating in future.
Trade unions play a major role in protecting the interests of common workers in Hong Kong because unity is strength and the grievances of many workers can be easily listened to when compared to when individuals fight for their rights. Trade unions are established with the objective of protecting and defending the employees from injustice, exploitation or what can be termed as encroachment. Therefore, these trade unions are likely to promote better lives for their stakeholders.
Benson J. 2008. Trade Unions in Asia. Routledge
Gobillot E. 2011. Leader shift: Reinventing Leadership for the Age of Mass Collaboration. USA: Kogan Page Publishers, pp 125
Hall D. 1991. An Uncertain Future for Labor in Hong Kong. [online] Retrieved from: http://www.multinationalmonitor.org/hyper/issues/1991/04/hall.html
ITUI 2012. Trade Union. [online] Retrieved from: http://www.worker-participation.eu/National-Industrial-Relations/Countries/France/Trade-Unions
Jackson M. P. 1982. Industrial Relations: UK: Taylor and Francis
Kabange C. 2011. The Pros and Cons of Joining a Trade Union. [online] Retrieved from: http://www.mywage.org/zambia/main/decent-work/trade-unions/the-pros-and-cons-of-joining-a-trade-union
Moorhead G. & Griffin W. 2011. Organizational Behavior: Managing People and Organizations. Newyork: Cengage Learning, pp 94
UNHCR 2012. 2012 Annual Survey of Violations of Trade Unions Rights- Hong Kong SAR (China). [Online] Retrieved from: http://www.unhcr.org/refworld/country,,,,HKG,,4fd88949c,0.html
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