Reason For Changes Within The Trade Union Commerce Essay


Before going any further, one would first ask the following what is a Union? Oxford Dictionary definition states that "A union is the act of connecting together or the element of being connected together, be it social, political, etc. context e.g. joining to together of a man and woman to be become as one (husband and wife) with a common goal in mind". With this brief fact in mind, the next step is to then ask and find out the meaning of trade union. MARTIN, J. (2010), Key Concepts in Human Resource Management; Sage Publications Ltd. sited that;

"Trade unions are establishments that represent people at work with their main objective to defend and improve people's pay and working conditions of employment. They also campaign for laws and policy which will benefit working people or its members". Therefore, to summarize the above statement it would imply they are only established to managing these employee relations as their main objective, which one of the group members has already described in depth. This means that it is a body with affiliations made up of employees and joining together of leaders or employers integrated towards safeguarding and upholding its collective interests. Therefore the following would make up the main purposes of a trade union as described on [Updated: January 2012 and Accessed: 10th November 2012]

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1. Negotiate Salaries and in work state or conditional terms.

2. Control affairs between workforces (its members) and the employer.

3. Have a shared action to impose the terms of collective or mutual wheeling and dealing

4. Promoting fresh demands and ideas on behalf of their colleagues/ members

5. Help resolve any complaints or grievances that may arise.

Trade unions could also be in form of the following;

A company union- Which would mainly be there to voice the welfares of colleagues of just that company and wouldn't be connected to any other unions.

A general or industrial union-Main objective to represent employees from various establishments in the same industry.

A craft union- There to delegate with skilled labours of a particular field e.g. wielders carpenters etc.

Secondly, is to find out the Brief history of trade unions. Various books and journal and internet searches came up with various history and theories how trade union originated.

Reid, J.A (2005), United We Stand: A History of Britain's Trade Unions; Penguin summarised that "The serious history of British trade unionism' started with Sidney and Beatrice Webb in 1894" in a different literature (Allen Lane: 2004), it argued that 'Until there are Trade Unions, there is no Labour Movement'. This means that if there wasn't a Workforce drive trade union won't be in existence. Therefore, it meant that the employed milestone to voicing their opinions was to introduce trade union. Therefore, one could say that Trade Unions are democratic form of doing so. In the past, they consisted of assembly workers of who were classified as those capable of bringing together products from a number of constituents e.g. manufacturing industry like car and heavy machinery plants, process workers of which involved processing a particular raw product through a selection of stages e.g. textile and drug industries while general workers consisted of those who implemented general physical sweating tasks e.g. construction industry, fire stations and Agricultural industry but nowadays, it could either that or those in the new technological environment e.g. call centres, I.T industries and many more. The industrial revolution of 1750- 1850, of which brought about revolutions in the agricultural, manufacture, mine, transport industries, of which helped to bring into play trade unions. With the help of trade unions, it had a proficient result with social, economic and cultural conditions of the times. Therefore role of trade unions acted significantly in the industrial revolution as sited in [Updated: March 2010 and Accessed: 13th November 2012], as it helped with the following;

Forced the Government in 1842 to pass a law called The Mines Act, which was a stern approach of not employing women/ girls and all boys under the teen age down mines as it became unlawful for those in this categories to work down mine mills, due to the fact it was a very dangerous environment with few safety rules and regulation. But nowadays countries where mining still a source of wealth, the working conditions has improved immensely due to the voices of trade union as modern equipment are now available to assist hence reducing the risk of fatalities and serious injuries.

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Minimum Wage Scheme structure- As cost of living varied across the country, places where cost of living was high improved wages structure was implemented ad vice-versa which in the turn helped maintain the living conditions and avoid poverty. The government always assess it yearly and make recommendation to increase in relation to the economy's GDP ratings market and many more.

Strength and Weakness of Trade Unions


As many functions have being listed above of what trade unions do, one could assume that as their major strengths. Therefore to summarise, these collective bargaining were designed to reaching an agreement between employer and employee with an objective of regulating working conditions, hours, holidays, overtime, wage scale, training, health and safety.


Job losses as of result of companies and industries restructuring its logistics operations whereby moving production to low currency states with the aim of stabilising the business and maximising their profits, therefore trade unions would be able not avert these closures, hence affecting its members as they might not be capable of paying the membership fees due to no source of income, hence bringing to the decrease in the union's membership.

Major Changes With Trade Unions

Here, would be focusing on the following;

Need for the changes within the trade union.

Forces for and Against Changes within the trade union.

The Changes within the trade union.

But to proceed, generally why do we need change? Individuals (both personal and collective) normally need change to do these;

Adapt to a new environment

Change of scenery

Acquire new skills and knowledge

Earn higher wages, many more.

Therefore in relation to the topic, why would trade union require changes? Trade unions would require changes because of having to look at their PESTLE ANALYSIS and re-evaluating them. Below shows How PESTLE analysis normally operates


Political - this normally the change in powers at national or international as a result of various policies from government, trade unions. This is due to the pressures that might arise in cutting country deficits, MPs or elected government officials would generally vote to favour government rather than union therefore unions should always be ready to adapt to any government changes. Also due to various unions with values policies, they must be a gap of adapting if all policies are merged together in the future

Economic - this normally its members spending power. Therefore as value of goods/services, rate of inflation and tax with rise and fall in interest rates occur on either yearly or quarterly basis, unions should always see into effects of suggestions to minimum wage, so as their members wages adhere or reflects to these changes in the economy

Social - As levels of redundancy increases in the public sectors, the union aim would to encourage employers and government to improve apprenticeship schemes which would in turn attract more members. The should also have the ability of able to negotiate with employers on behalf of its members with changes to work patterns e.g. holidays, overtime and working hours

Technological - This would be iterations to their means of communication e.g. better procedure of e-mailing or communicating to members and using social media to advertise more, increase in computer literacy for their staff members as to better the ways of communication to its members as technological changes in the environment would occur from time to time.

Legal -Unions awareness of future changes in legislation that would regularly occur at times in with regards to both Europe and government implementing or introducing newer rules and regulations.

Environment - This normally increasing the interest and awareness to its members with issues of ethics that would occur in workplaces on local, national and international levels.

Also, various unions should always look at and evaluate all its structures and management styles which has already spoken in detail with the UNITE union section of the report. But to summarise unions should always adapt to Porter's five-force model of competition, as with combined abilities of these forces determines the eventual survival potential of the union measured in terms of their long-run return on capital invested. while eliminating immediate reasons that might affect union survival e.g. strikes, sudden increases in demand (Worthington I. and Brittonp C. Business Environment, 2006; Pearson Education)

Changes within the trade union

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Freeman and Medoff, (1984) sited that "Conventional wisdom among employers suggests that unions are undesirable". Therefore, it means that the effects of these declines would have an impact of unionisation survival. These effects would therefore hinge on companies' readiness and capability to repel trade union needs or put up with it. Although there is a little or no case that they have had a negative influence on corporations as of recent times, but some would say that of the unions' behaviour could have caused the negativity in the employment and financial growth of the economy and industrial relations (employment relations) due to the power of these unions to unsettle the industry operations. Overall, trade union organizations has a lesser effect nowadays than they had during the 80's

Reason for Changes within the Trade Union.

In this part of the report, would be looking at the following to the reasons for changes within the trade Unions;

Trade Union Decline as a result of the above mentioned Changes

Future of Trade Union with regards to these changes.

Trade union decline as a result of the above mentioned changes

Dunn and Metcalf (1996) sited that "The closed shop was outlawed in the 1980s therefore forbidding strikes proposed to put in force it, by giving workers the right not to belong to a union and by preventing preferential hiring of union members

Various Trade unions are seeing a sharp decrease in their membership throughout most innovative markets since the past 25 years. In the U.K, employees are far-off likely to be affiliates of unions than it was periods ago, and lesser employers recognizes these organisation in brokering or negotiating pay. While it remains a very crucial part in public sector jobs, the private sector registrations would decrease even further or phased out. Online Journal (………………) reflected on how it had occurred and if it really matters for employees and for employers. It also sited that 'decline of large-scale manufacturing plants has been the principal reason for the decline in union membership'. Although some may say its right, employer acknowledgment of trade unions will not solely be based on what these productions companies will create. If these employers always allow unions to help voice their concerns, there will be no cause it shouldn't be allowed to take possession of new offices and businesses. Though trade union acknowledgments are usually up to the establishments, it may be forced into recognition if their employees need them and if it would have adequate power of bargaining.

Future of Trade Union with regards to these changes.

Before going to the above heading, the group decided to as part of the report, a questionnaire should be done to gain people current perception in the university on if when they finish their studies and find employment in either the public or private sector knowing the challenges various trade unions are facing currently, would they think of being members of any. The questionnaire can be seen in the appendix but below is the analysis of the questionnaire.

A Current Perception to show the general public that prefer to be members of the trade union in this current environment.

Future Perception, to show the general public views of still wanting to be members of the trade union in the next 5 years

From the pie chart above, one could analyse the shift in pattern between the Yes and No in relation to the current situation and future aspirations of whether to be members of trade union as the following;

Member satisfactions- The most important question would be that whether it's beneficial of being a union member. Looking at the above chart the shift from yes of 79% at the current climate to yes of 33% in the next 5-10 years would be as a result of members feeling that in the next couple of years, the government might have more regulations and laws that would empower the say of trade unions because they (government) might tend to shift the powers to employers with guidelines of handling any disrepute such as wage increase, working conditions, etc., hence avoiding the instance of strike actions to resolving any disrepute that might occur. Therefore, current yes percentage would shift to left or lowered in future because the members would feel no point of being part as they (trade) would only have only little or no say in any of the disrepute but those that might still remain would hope the union would help get a better deal being offered but might have to take longer as anticipated. Also, whether the Organization would protect rights of its members. This so because at the moment there are rights to a better pay and better working condition but in the future they might not be able to deliver fully to these rights, as it would be just limited as an instance the union won't be able to negotiate wage structure if a cap in wages the authority feel is fair and good is put in place.

Enough Resources available for the Members- Here it's all about making sure that enough materials is easily available for its members whether daily online updates or weekly newsletters for its member so to keep them up to date with any news that would help in the long run, therefore keeping them (members) focused and faith that the union would still be of use to them in the near future. This would also help its members in sorting out any disagreement that might occur with their work environment (employers).

Member Expectations- This is generally in anything in life if one pays for a service, its expectations is that the services is rendered adequately and efficiently, therefore in this instance if members feels that the services are not efficient enough it would deviate them of either joining a different union .

Economic Downturn and Change in world economy (Geographic / international level) - This because some you say in certain scenario like the teachers strike and tube strikes has had an impact in the economy. As Centrepiece Autumn 2008 sited "unions will help protect their members from the current economic slowdown remains to be seen".

Also, with above reasons for the changes within the organisation (trade union), one could then look to the future of trade unions in the next 5years and beyond to back up the theories and analysis

Lester, R. (1958) As Unions Mature, Princeton: University Press sited and argued that "since 1926 things has improved due less forcefulness, competition, modernisation, a wider image at highest level, more control, some loss of energy at local level and a superior gap among top representatives and the rank-and-file. Although, some of the above arguments are accurate, one could still disagree with fewer competitions among trade unions. This is because as the country have both public and government unions and privately own unions, of which would have different opinions but both aiming to protect its members. This would mean in a scenario, the public union might have their main objective as having a safe working environment for its members before wages and the rest, while in the private unions, their main objective would be to negotiate the highest wage or salaries possible for their members before considering a better working environment or any other things within their agendas.

Trade union at International level.

The above statics obtained from (Wikipedia) shows the trade union density at international level. The same web search also showed the following key facts on trade union at international level;

The International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) as the world's largest trade union federation which was formed November 1, 2006 out of the merger of the International Confederation of Free Trade Unions (ICFTU) and the World Confederation of Labour (WCL).

It represents 175 million workers through its 311 affiliated organisations within 155 countries and territories

But for the purposes of the report would using trade union relationship between United States of America and Unite union in the U.K as a point of reference. Abstracts from Carsten Strøby Jensen (2008) Trade Unionism: Differences and Similarities- a Comparative View on Europe, USA summarised the following on both countries:

General discussions or measures with the trade unions between both countries are different because in U.S.A, employers rarely recognise its existence while in the U.K it is in terms of negotiation and collective bargaining.

Although the industrial sector makes up the core of trade union movement for both countries, the decline is higher in the U.K than in the U.S due to fact pound currency is higher in value than dollar currency, as both approaches are specifically focused on achieving the needs of these groups, and no other groups in labour market as stated in (Carter: "According to Aronowitz's detailed account, by 1952, the US labour movement)

Trade unions in both country and other countries have all seen a major hindrance over the past 25 years due to fact if there is a strike say HSBC in UK it would also affect the US branch's profit because of the connection both countries posses

Reason for the drop in union participation is because demands are poor in collective bargaining in America than U.K. due to social factors affecting both economies.

From the above facts, one could conclude that unionism in America and Britain (UK) are different because in America they are mainly concerned with acquiring the slight interest of its supporters more than evolving a wide well-being formal assertiveness towards its demands while in the UK they take the affairs of it member first before the well-being of the government.


Having looked at the advantages and disadvantages, changes within the trade union and reasons of for these changes, one could conclude for the trade unions to still be in existence in the next 5-10 year, the various unions as a whole and especially the chosen union (UNITE) in reference to the report, the organisation would have to look at their PESTLE ANALYSIS already mentioned above in the report. Therefore, they have to do the following:

Improve by making sure that they satisfy its member's needs hence might have to implement a new focus /goal or change in mission

Become more competitive due to changes in technologies and culture due to changes in the global market as they might have to target more on the younger generations through social media of being a part of their mission and what they would achieve for them, which might lead to an increase in membership once more.

To work within their Resources if meaning restructuring the union as a whole and have just one specific goal than many that can't be achieved.

Adapting to change hence looking into the unions internal and External forces as mentioned earlier.

And finally be adaptable to any collaborations or merging that might occur in the near future.


Before a recommendation could be made, the below cases studies would show where trade unions has being successful and not Successful.

Successful: With regards to recent allegation between Chelsea fc and Mark Claterrnberg. During the period of uncertainty surrounding the case, the union for referees were able to back there member fully till there was no case to answer. Therefore in regards to trade unions being successful in the near future, they should be able to back its members till the very end in cases of grievances or disrepute.

Unsuccessful: This would be with the case of the Ford Car Plant planned closures. This is as the company relocates to a low production cost country rather than Make and sell them in Britain as to be able to still compete in the market; they would have to lose thousands of workforces they have to be able to re-structure the business. Although the union (UNITE) that represents these workforces are fighting for these closures, they cannot really stop the closures of these plants if a decision of the company has already being made. But what they could do in future is able to negotiate with these companies of finding an alternative way of staying in business hence keeping their members in work.

Therefore, one could recommend the following;

That union should always adapt to changes with pestle factors and their management styles and structures as well.

Communicate with members on a weekly/daily rather than monthly/quarterly as some do.

Although they should have freedom of speech to voice any concern of its members, they should also be open-minded with its leaders' willingness to negotiate with its 'collective bargaining'.