The Future Of The UK Trade Unions

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This essay will explore that the relationships between UK trade unions and 'a partnership approach' and then, demonstrate that the future of UK trade unions rests with 'a partnership approach' to employee relations indeed. First of all, I will give an official definition of trade unions and the related background information such as its function and history. Secondly, the thesis statement will be provided, and meanwhile, I will take Tesco and CWU as two successful examples in order to prove that 'partnership approach' to employee relations plays how significant role in trade unions. At the end, the standpoint of the essay will be restated and concluded.

As it is known, among the employee relations, it is likely that employees have some problems occurred them, for example they want salary increase, more paid vacations, and the forth. Nevertheless, employees cannot simply depend on themselves' power to strive for what they want, thus, trade unions as sort of organisations of the combination of mutual benefit; exist to help employees to fight for wages, rights, work conditons etc. And basically, the trade unions are aware of the demand of the members and their family wages. (Lecture note of David Collins). There is a definition of it on the official website, "Trade Unions are organizations that represent people at work. Their purpose is to protect and improve people's pay and conditions of employment. They also campaign for laws and policies which will benefit working people. Trade unions exist because an individual worker has very little power to influence decisions that are made about his or her job. By joining together with other workers, there is more chance of having a voice and influence." (A non, What are trade unions, (n/d)). To some degrees, trade unions seem like assistants for employees to achieve what they deserve to. Therefore, owing to mutual benefit, employees are encouraged to join the trade unions and turn into an organisation. Trade unions almost cover all the occupations, some unions work for a designated industry, for example, the National Union of Teachers (NUT), this union represents teachers specially, and the Associated Society of Locomotive Engineers and Firemen (ASLEF), "is the UK union for train drivers and operators in all forms of rail transport, from London Underground to Eurostar," (Trade Union UK union association list, n/d). Moreover, other unions are made up for a mixture of people in different jobs; the typical samples are UNISON, "which is the second largest trade union in the United Kingdom with over 1.3 million members." (The UNISON homepage, n/d). "Often this is because unions have merged with other unions so that they can increase their membership and their influence." (A non, What are trade unions. (n/d)).

The formation of trade unions is not mandatory by some articles of law, it is formed by workers getting together naturally, due to the mutual benefit, the same interests, and employees are content to cooperate, combine and fight for the gain of their own. For this reason, the partnership in employee relations is especially important for trade unions. To put it simply, trade unions with members who have concurrent target can work more easily and gain more acceptance from the members.

The Communication Workers Union

For instance, there is a successful trade union in UK, the Communication Workers Union (CWU), "it is the biggest union for the communications industry in the UK with 215,000 members. Suggests its name, the CWU specialise the communications industry, It was formed in January 1995 when the Union of Communication Workers joined forces with the National Communications Union. CWU members cover a lot of areas; they work in Royal Mail, the Post Office, BT. O2 and other telecommunication companies, cable TV, Accenture HR Services, financial services, and the Alliance & Leicester (now Santander). Its members' expertise includes engineering, computing, clerical, mechanical, driving, retail, financial and manual skills. The aim of the Communication Workers Union is to protect, advance and serve the interests of its members throughout the communications industry." (A non, The Communication Union, n/d). The members of the CWU come from almost different areas, but in order to struggle for their equal rights or interests, they combine together and go on strike, demonstration, etc. And the leader of the CWU announced that, "we currently are campaigning and raising awareness of workers' rights in a number of companies." (A non, The Communication Union, n/d).

In order to enhance the power and self-affirmation of the members, make the members know much more about the function of the CWU preferably, the CWU often hold some events, there are some records as follows:

"â-15th November 2010

UNION SKILLS I Course - CWU Wimbledon

â-20th November 2010

Conference: Supporting Trade Union Reps at Work - London

â-20th November 2010

Stop The War National Demonstration - London

â-22nd November 2010


â-26th November 2010

LondonHYPERLINK "" Seminars for Trade Union Activists - 25 - 27 November

â-27th November 2010

CWU Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Conference" (The Communication Union, n/d). Unions like the CWU have contributed for numerous workers to protect their rights, for example, "establishing the eight-hour day, protecting workers' health & safety, helping create the minimum wage, etc. Unions are continuing the fight today to improve life for all working families in the UK. The CWU lead the way in the campaign to give Agency workers full employment rights" (Communication Union, n/d).

Tesco's partnership agreement

Tesco is another instance that achieved the success by partnership approach to employee relations represents the UK trade unions. It is the UK's largest food retailer and one of World's Fortune 500. "In 1998, Tesco and the Union of

Shop, Distributive and Allied Workers (USDAW) signed a 'partnership agreement'. The agreement was seen as crucial for both parties: Tesco needed to improve communications with staff and more effectively involve both employees and union representatives in the day-to-day affairs of the business; USDAW needed to retain recognition and more effectively represent its members in any negotiations or other dealing with the company." (Blyton P., Turnbull P., 2004. P.248). With regard to the case of Tesco's partnership agreement, it is obvious that, with partnership agreements, members of the trade unions can have more "flexible working practices" and "a shift towards high commitment management (HCM)". (Blyton P., Turnbull P., 2004. P.249). Tesco employed a numerous of people in more than 700 UK stores in 2002, and "75% of Tesco staff are female and 65 per cent work part-time (Blyton P., Turnbull P., 2004. Cited in Haynes and Allen, 2001:174). So the supporter of the USDAW has increased a lot after the partnership agreement has been signed, and there is no denying that this is a 'win-win agreement'. "If partnership agreements are to work effectively, they require dense and reciprocal communication networks with enhanced information sharing, greater trust between the parties, more effectively problem-solving processes, and constant attention to constituent interests" (Blyton P., and Turnbull P., 2004 cited in Heery, 2002; Rubinstein, 2000; Walton et al., 1994).

According to the historical data, the UK trade unions dominate the period is from 1968 to 1974. (An illustrated beginners' guide to the history of British trade unions and working class movements. (n/d)).

"During the 1980s and 1990s traditional industries were killed off by Tory governments that reversed many of the gains of the post-war period." (An illustrated beginners' guide to the history of British trade unions and working class movements. (n/d)). Therefore, it is likely that workers have some complaints and want to recapture the interests of their own, at that period; the partnership would play an extremely important part in the trade unions. According to the history, facing the great pressure, people stick to go on strike to safeguard their interests.

As to the status in quo of UK trade unions, it depend on the joint attempt from different branches. "Now the overwhelming majority of people in Britain are

paid workers." (An illustrated beginners' guide to the history of British trade unions and working class movements. (n/d)).


In conclusion, this article has argued that the future of UK trade unions depends on a 'partnership approach' to employee relations to some degrees. Consequently, what the UK trade unions should do is not only depend on waiting for the related articles of law to be consummated, the policy of the government can be employee-oriented, but also try to increase their influence upon employees as possible as they can and endeavour to encourage employees to join and help to build more partnerships. Because for the sake of the UK trade unions, and a bright future of them, stable partnership is very essential.

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